An Angel in My Family

There’s an angel in my family.
Sitting his wooden chair,
portable radio
perched upon his wooden roll-top desk.
He’s having a lively discussion with someone
I don’t know who
For there’s no one else in the room.
My uncle was born with an
extra chromosome
braided into every cell
making every one of those nuclei
ache inside him
and boy,
my grandmother too.
She used to lick her thumbs and wipe
the sleep from his tired eyes.
An immaculate child,
sent from the stars to embrace us all
in his blanket of soft light,
his font of unrestrained love
pouring from his chest
in steady, unbroken stream.
And though I was much younger
when I found out he wasn’t right,
I knew instinctively that
it was all right,
I would defend him
From all the whispers
from all the stares.

It used to take him minutes to simply
stand up
arthritis shooting hot plasma
up through his knees and hips.
But he never groused
no –
that would only distress the rest of us.
Instead, he worked his way through the pain.
Slowly, steadily each day
holding in the ache,
breathing it out again
before resuming his gentle smile,
eyes clear and blue as the morning sky.
I remember so many times as a child, I’d cry
for one reason or other,
and catch him in the corner of my eye
with tears in his too,
he didn’t know why
he just knew what it
felt like.

He passed away last September,
His body finally letting go,
each cell releasing itself
from the added weight,
a bright beam of light
returning the stars.

It’s funny how they call it
Downs
when all of us who know,
are in fact, down here,
looking up
at him.