Miracle

Miracle
Naked as a babe I stand,
and survey the damaged hills
and valleys of my skin—
familiar landscape made foreign.
If my body was the temple,
you were the holy spirit
that craved a fragrant sacrifice
of blood and milk to bless
the world with hope.

I wonder now at what I am:
the other side of a miracle.
The altar stained, the crowd dispersed,
the prophecy-now-memory.
Remember when the angels sang,
the earth split, the sea rose?
What wonders to behold!

Now my belly is a billowed shroud,
the body gone, the body risen.
I am the imprint, faint and faded,
touched by God.

Resentment

Resentment

It starts with comparison.
I pull the measuring tape taut,
square it off, count the hashes.
Pencil the number on a crumpled receipt
and chant the incantation:
Money back within thirty days.

Discrepancy makes me a sorcerer’s apprentice
multiplying not brooms, but yardsticks.
All things transmogrify
in service of appraisal:
The floor length mirror.
The business card.
The photographs of Rome.
The published byline.
The summer cabin.
Trust fund disbursement.
A baby’s push up.
The marathon stamina.
The youthful skin.
The influential family name.
The bullish trade.
The glowing skyline.
The time, the time, the time.

It is tiresome to carry the scales of justice
door to door.
To feel a thing blindly, to evaluate its heft
by the space it occupies
and the space it does not.
My arm shakes, the muscles fail,
and in reluctant setting down,
the graceless letting go,
amid the shards of expectation
I inherit the wealth I am due:

I am enough.

Hope and a Future

Hope and a Future

Several weeks ago, my husband snapped a photo of our family’s new nightly feeding routine. The scene is set around 3:00 am, the dead of night, and my back is turned toward the camera. I lean over to adjust the breast pump. In the frame, the half of the bedroom we fashioned as a diaper changing station and nursing oasis is dimly lit by a single, soft white bulb. My husband holds our infant son, Charlie, as he greedily suckles a bottle, the contents of which were donated by some other mother with more than enough breastmilk to spare. I sit bathed in white light and attempt to increase my own supply, as the rest of the bedroom glows red. The night light casts bloody shadows across the wall. We are exhausted.

Prior to parenthood, I knew the breadth of change that a newborn would bring: sleepless nights, ringing ears, tested patience. I watched other mothers navigate the early weeks and months, and I thought, “I am up to this challenge.” What I didn’t anticipate, however, was the emotional rawness of the experience. I thought perhaps Charlie’s birth would be a clean slate, a new beginning. His would be a fresh life as yet untouched by the secrets and pain of his ancestors’ trauma. And, in some way, I thought my hopeful focus on the future would seal the jar on my own sadness and loss.

Instead, the experience of bringing a new child into the world was not isolated. I could not wall it off from the past year’s events. Charlie continually reminded me of the DNA discovery–a biological father I would never meet and my mother’s half truths and omissions. I stared into Charlie’s tiny face and big, expressive eyes, and I saw my own eyes reflected. Would I have been so upright if his financial stability and childhood were on the line? If I knew the truth would push him into the same cycle of broken relationships of the family’s previous generations, would I still swear allegiance to it?

I began to see the threads of connection between my own parental experience and my parents’ messy lives. Even though my biological father was no longer alive, his DNA lived on in the tiny human I held in my hands. I had yet to discover which traits of his Charlie carried, and the truth was that I might never be able to distinguish them from the genetic gifts of my maternal line. Would Charlie love dogs and travel? Would he wield a charismatic directness in his older years? Would his almond eyes remain as evidence of Japanese ancestry even as his hair turned my mother’s shade of strawberry blonde?

There was no perfect answer to these complicated questions–no new life blooming except through the roots of the old. Just like the photograph, the legacy of loss glowed red alongside the hope of an unmarred future. There was no separating them. New parenthood taught me that living fully means embracing the reality of what came before.

What the camera portrayed and what my son’s face reflected was this: death is just the beginning of hope.

Reassurance
Alice Walker

I must love the questions
themselves
as Rilke said
like locked rooms
full of treasure
to which my blind
and groping key
does not yet fit.
and await the answers as unsealed
letters
mailed with dubious intent
and written in a very foreign
tongue.
and in the hourly making
of myself
no thought of Time
to force, to squeeze
the space
I grow into.

Means

Means

I’m on the phone with the sixth nurse, newly discharged.

The past weeks witnessed frantic dispatches for aid via email and helpline,

while the whoosh and suck of the electric pump

Coaxes Canaan’s bounty from my damaged right breast.

My son lays in his father’s arms,

And greedily receives sustenance that my body cannot provide.

Our circle is broken, and I mourn the unnatural rift in this natural process.

Each greeting begins: “Congratulations, momma!”

and ends with, “…enjoy your precious babe,”

and my body’s screams for healing

Drown in twee wishes and sentiment.

Who advocates for the vessel

once she bears her cargo into a new world?

Who mends her battered hull while the sun shines

on the shiny, pink thing, squalling like the storm

they weathered together on the open sea?

I, and I alone, trace the lines of the stitch

That binds me to myself

looking to fix severed connections

Like a ranch hand mends a Texas fence.

I received your message:

Mothers are warriors, heroes, saints

Aloft on a pedestal of words,

A pedestal erected in lieu

of the support withheld.

I am the means to an end.