i am looking for joy in sorrow.
i am counting the days. small white birds take flight
and i am here, so near
to you but for these oceans.
i am waiting for the light to come.
i am alone and in the grip of sanity, i never
knew how love could rip
from me all i am. i have thought that i do not
want to live. dreams of you
pass by too quickly to grasp, and i linger
in sleep far longer than i should
and when i wake i cling to the whisper
of your dream-voice, the fading
shape of your smile. i can almost remember
the color of the sky that day
your hand in mine, or mine in yours
i was so small. i am still
so desperately small. the memory
of you sits hard in my throat
and i cannot see. i never knew how love
could cut, how the knife
would stay inside all this time.
i am not saying i miss you.
i am saying i would go back and live
each hour again with you, and i would take back
every lie i told, every time i turned away.
i would open my eyes until sleep
caught me and even then i would wait for you
in my dreams. my dreams
now are birds in flight, and i am running
after with this stone in my throat.
i am looking for you among them.
i am trying to number the days
until this passes, they say it passes. i am
believing it. i loved the oceans once,
loved the blue endless strain of it
its movement, the romance.
i am remembering that. what more can i
hold on to but the dark shape of you i dreamed of
across oceans, and i should have come to you.
i should have been braver.
i should have relented.
i am searching the present for a way
into the past, and each day that passes is a hard
thing i take from my throat and gather.
i move further from you. it hurts.
As Fast as Lightning
It all became so bright.
A lightning bolt, Illuminates the sky.
As quick as it came, is as quick as it left.
For a short moment—
it was like looking at the world through another lense.
It reminds me of us.
Just a bout of time, you come back again.
Like thunder and lightning, we’re a catastrophic match.
But that’s just it, until next time
You’re here & then your gone.
It all happens so lightning fast.
is neither a cure nor a disease,
merely a tool,
to thwart or accelerate justice
at the whims
of its user.
it is a weapon,
bending to the intentions
of its wielder,
to end an argument
or start one,
to create suffering,
or manifest peace.
such is the way of tools:
not a cure
nor a disease,
merely a needle.
in the right hands, a vaccine.
but in another’s, a poison.
Bringing to Term, Love
The Bringing began with a dream. I do not mean a personal one. As in one from childhood. No, I always saw myself as Cécile in Bonjour Tristesse. Wiry, hardened by trial and too scrawny to carry my own ghost to term, never mind a child. Had you inquired casually, to make small talk like among foolish girlfriends whether I planned to get married and have kids, the answer would be a determined Absolutely Not on both counts.
I'd looked myself through and through, and there was no doubt. I would belong to no one. There're certain things that knowing oneself well does not allow-- Honesty-- if you permit the error of youth, on my part. Half-truths. The truth being that we bury parts of ourselves, from ourselves-- our inadequacies, secret hopes, second thoughts. We build a cover. Pretending we don't need anyone, or anything.
My mental scissors work very well. For a while.
And so, the mortal enemy, Time, passed. I was older. My energies highly dispersed among odd jobs, and obscure partial realities.
I seldom dream. When I do it is a vivid alternate reality that I take perhaps all too seriously.
I dreamt, that my now husband was at a breaking point, and needed a child. That I, in my audacity, would fulfill this need for him and turn his sinking spirit around. I took all the necessary steps, and Life co-signed.
The day I conceived I immediately sensed something was different. And I was elated. I just knew. Everything in my body said Working on it. It took weeks for the little plastic stick to show a sign of pregnancy. Being already hormonal, I cried at every negative. Until that double line marker finally showed. August 15th. Then it was only happy tears.
I felt, with all humility, that I had succeeded in something that I had been convinced would never be granted me. That I would have let pass me by. My husband felt the same way. Ecstatic. Blessed. And afraid. This was after all a whole new level of responsibility.
Many have said that they loved being pregnant, something to do with the freedom it allows, physically. True the relief of already being prego makes for great sex. Up to that point, you withhold something of yourself from yourself, from your partner. A negation in spite of all the action that does not allow for a full Yes.
Eating for two, is not what it seems. I did not double my intake. I increased mindfulness.
I was ultra careful in what we fed the embryo. Mostly words. The baby was spoken to personally, by name, internally and aloud, and read to, to ensure that he would know the voice of his Mama and Papa, and feel that he was already a welcome part of this world. He rejected sweet things, communicating by waves of nausea, and anyway I stuck to a clean healthy diet of mostly raw fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds, and water. Morning sickness was worst during the end of the first trimester. I didn't actually have any cravings till I started breastfeeding (and then it was alternately peanuts and watermelon) and this was consistent through two years. I learned to live mostly on water. That made the milk. To this date, Remy loves peanuts and is indifferent to watermelon.
I gained 33 pounds, maxing at 137. Seven pounds being baby. After delivery, 126lbs and within a few months was back to pre-pregnancy weight. Remy was invisible till about 7 months. He had been cradled sideways so that I hardly showed at all. Until suddenly he rotated facing forward. Now we could see a hand or foot pressing out as he shifted in his quarters. It was like, overnight, to the public eye, boom I was finally expecting.
He apparently had it good inside and didn't want to come out. The doctors were pushing for induced labor and declared April 20 as the prescribed day. Remy was "due" on my mother's birthday, April 19. I was adamant about him not sharing Hitler's b-day. And I'd rather not Mom's either, but that was a lesser evil. After tax-day, I was very anxious. I did not want a chemical induction.
My husband took action. He said, "You have to do those things they said not to..."
We jumped on the bed. Chased each other up and down the stairs. Nothing.
"Hm. Let's go for a hike."
We walked from our place on Upland to E. Main, down Arthur St. all the way to the end of Charles and made a left into a wooded trail that now had begun to weather into a ravine. It was precarious, sloping down and around, with rocks and exposed roots. It led down to a gravel farm like road. We took a right, then cut a left through the marsh, over a narrow trail with a small rail-less dirt covered overpass spanning a tiny but bubbling creek with frogs and fish. The path led to a deep dark woods.
I shook my head. Nothing yet. We turned around and hiked back. Took about an hour.
Around 5am I sat up in bed. I had a cramp. I went to pee. I was spotting blood. My heart raced. I waited on the edge of the bed. I prayed everything was ok. We had our mattress on the floor, not having a bed frame. My mother-in-law was with us, sleeping in the room next door. My husband was asleep. I watched him. I sat and I waited. There was threat of heavy snow. The clouds were pregnant, but nothing was falling yet.
It was April 17.
By 7am I was starting to have distant contractions. My husband stirred, and I said I think this is it, we did it. He smiled in sleepy disbelief and relief and concern. Reality sunk in. He readied himself and Mom. I paced the house like the shadow of a cat. I called into work to call out "sick." They wished me luck!
By 10am I was very concerned. I wanted to be taken to the hospital. The contractions were close enough, not horrible, about every 5 minutes. It was snowing. That was my biggest worry. It had been snowing for about an hour and was sticking. My mother-in-law called the hospital. There was no urgency, except my fear of getting stuck on the road. The hospital is ten minutes away.
We arrived. I was admitted. My husband stayed at my bedside. The woman next to me was unbearable, cussing non-stop into her cell phone, telling someone that she is being sent home because she is not sufficiently dilated. Demanding that since she is here, she wants and induction now. It was terrifying. I breathed through all my contractions, squeezing Bunny's hand. The attendant arrived. I was stripped and check-- sufficiently dilated-- 5cm. Relief. Pain. And, the wait.
I had already determined I was taking no pain killers. If this was real I was going to feel it all. Around 1pm they wheeled me into the delivery room. Finally. I was feeling great and thought I had everything under control. So wrong. I remember coldly rationalizing and previsualizing and telling my husband, months ago, that I thought it would be best if he was not in the room. Not that I wanted to rob him of the experience or myself of emotional support. I had tried to visualize. I was mostly right.
The realism of childbirth is above all an exercise of humility.
Somewhere between 1:15 and 2pm my water broke. I was allowed to wander around a bed like platform with a gymnastics bar across horizontally. For grasping on to during contractions and help with pushing no doubt. Somebody mopped the water. It had a sweet smell. There were traces of blood. The wandering must look from the side like a ranting mad woman, who is panting, and then loses control of bowels. Horror. Tears streaming while the medical staff says it is perfectly normal.
I alternated between Zen meditation and Transcendental. Zen during contractions. TM during the gaps. Contractions about a minute apart. Lasting about a minute to a minute and a half. (The difference is in Zen you aim for total awareness. In TM for single focus.)
They want to know if I want an epidermal?
If not now, then it will become too late--- No. No. NO. DON'T TOUCH ME. MAYBE I WAS SWEARING I DON'T F*CKING REMEMBER.
The doctor comes. FINALLY. "Are you ready to push?"
READY. I'M READY. LET'S GET THIS THING OUT ALREADY!! READY? OF COURSE I'M READY.
In reality, I have no idea what that means. I'll know soon enough. Now they are very concerned. The baby heart monitor shows the baby's heartrate dropping. Terror. The face of my husband. Defeat.
"We think we need to move to Cesarean section." They're talking about saving the baby. The ideal of natural childbirth is shot. I feel like a failure. But of course, it's not about me.
SAVE THE BABY!
They give me some idiotic forms to sign. Seriously. Release. Acknowledge that in the process of this treatment you are about to receive you may die or sustain injury for which we will not be held liable.
I sign. Tears are streaming. Contractions are consistent, but that's not why I'm crying.
The nurse is telling me that they now have to give the epidermal. It hits me. My body is now in full PUSH mode. I can't describe the feeling except to say that I have no control over that force out and down. The baby wants OUT.
"Don't push! don't push!"
I CAN'T NOT YOU HAVE TO GET THAT SHOT TO ME NOW MY BODY WILL NOT COOPERATE.
They give me the shot. I am paralyzed, waist down. I feel nothing but Fear.
I'm on a platform being carted to the operating room. They stick me behind some blue curtains. I ask if my husband can stay? He asks if I want him to? I burst into a new bout of tears. Of course I do! DON'T LEAVE ME HERE. I'm not rationale anymore.
I can feel the slicing of the knives regardless of the epidermal and local anesthesia.
Something goes wrong. I can tell by the shift in tone and sudden slight urgency in request for tools. FUCK. They punctured my bladder. And I can't hear the baby. WHERE IS HE?
"They've got him out. I see him..."
"Why isn't he making any noise?" I am sinking in spirits. I see him. The baby is blue as Krishna. They are carrying him to a sink, umbilical cord trailing.
And then, "Whaaa!"
One short cry. He's ALIVE. Thanks be to God the Almighty the Merciful.
They patch me up. They put the baby to my bare chest for a few minutes. He feels and smells amazing. Flesh and blood. Mine. His Papa is beside himself. He sees nothing but this amazing miracle. I remain paralyzed. He tells me I look beautiful and kisses me. They wheel me to some narrow compartment on a different floor. The baby remains for observation near the delivery area.
I know my husband needs to go eat something. I ask him to press my toes a moment before he leaves. I have this fear that I'll never walk. When he leaves, I start to feel something in my feet again and I fight through to keep wiggling and gaining movement. A lot of time passes alone in this corridor. Sounds of beeps and peripheral hospital noises. Someone comes to tell me that I will be three days in the hospital. That they've fixed me up with a catheter, that I'll have to wear it for a couple weeks. She shows me the baggie, where I can watch urine dripping in. She says I'll need to empty it when it gets full to this line. I follow the tube with my hand and trace its insertion into my right side. I don't feel the stitches of the C-Section but I can put my hand over the bandages. The anesthesia is still working.
The pain hits me later. I refuse the Ibuprofen and something stronger that they are pushing on me.
I want to see my baby. My husband is with me. I urge him to go home to sleep. He has to work the next day. I remain awake through the night. The baby sleeps, nurses, sleeps. The nurse helps with diapers and swaddling. Fortunately, the baby latches and eats. But his weight drops. Not enough to stop released from the hospital, god bless but enough for the staff to send in a person to lecture on lactation and another to strongly recommend donor's milk or formula. NO.
My milk hasn't come in. The baby is drinking colostrum, which is excellent in my opinion. The benefits of which are so vital that I want him to have as much as he possibly can. Milk can wait. I am confident it will come. I refuse to be rushed this time. I'm beginning to think I was rushed into the C-Section, but I'm in a lot of pain and don't trust my temper. I know I need to give the best impression that I'm ok to be able to go home. Fortunately, the idiotic perquisite for bowel movement is lifted, and that will not be an obstacle. I refuse to eat so my body can focus on healing.
They released me from the hospital Sunday. Remy was born on a Friday. I returned to work Monday. Covid has been a blessing. I am teaching virtually and at that time of high alert they were letting us work from home. I didn't qualify for Maternity Leave, so work was a given. The catheter came out May 10th. The catheter was the worst struggle. The incision and rearranging of organs was painful too and continued to make walking difficult.
My husband had no idea how much pain I was in. He wanted to give me a warm embrace, a bear hug, I howl, neither of us expecting such a reaction; a day after delivery, a week after return "...I will come to you," I whisper. And I did, always position myself in the most careful position to avoid grimace and misunderstanding.
He said, "I really thought you'd be good in a day or two."
I push through. Breastfeeding every three to four hours. Then every six. Holding the baby hurts my insides. I don't tell my husband how much I hurt until it is over and behind me. Sex felt like a knife for about a year. A shock because after all it was a C-Section, and that healed on me like on a dog within three weeks. At least, on the skin. I have a minimal battle scar; and the puncture mark from the catheter.
But the baby is amazing. He makes everyone so happy and filled with love.
It makes it all worthwhile.
Death of the Self
Sleep eludes her. Again. Tears gather, but dry just as fast.
Her baby wails.
Her husband stirs. "Shut that baby up," he growls.
She imagines smothering "that baby", then catches herself. How could she even think that? She's such a horrible mother.
She needs help. But if she tells anybody, they'll think she's crazy. They'll take her baby away.
She does what's expected. Drags her feet out of bed, towards the nursery. Cradles her baby, sits with her in the rocking chair, hums...
Still, her baby cries. Like she knows. Her mother is an empty husk, incapable of loving her.
The Long Sleep with No Rest
It's always a long way home
when your head is in the clouds
and your feet can't find purchase on the ground
You close your eyes at the end of the day
trying and trying so hard to sleep
but need to hear what your dreams have to say
They tell me about my past
They tell me about my present
Will the future be told if I ask?
Escape, running, no way out for me
Impossible roads which fall off cliffs
and tumble me carelessly into the sea
Flying with broken wings
waiting to crash to the earth
With nothing to hold me up but my feelings
In my dreams I am strong
full of superpowers of magnificent strength
Owning towering wisdom, I am never wrong
I must step carefully through the snakes
jump over crocodiles, avoiding the lions
hiding behind trees, whatever it takes
I'm at the bus station trying to get home
Not enough money, I search for change
Try calling for help with the same broken phone
It has been decades, why haven't they repaired this?
I wonder as I pick up the same damaged receiver
over and over again, thinking perhaps it's been magically fixed.
Then, somehow I am hanging onto the bus roof
Struggling to hang on as the bus hits air
I see my old street for a moment, then poof!
The bus lands and deposits me far away
in a strange neighborhood in the dark
Surrounded by evil strangers and I pray
Somehow I always end up here
creeping through buildings abandoned
Waiting for the monsters' to appear
Even my superpowers cannot save me
Strength and wisdom
are meaningless in this realm of dream
I should know by now they will never change
my dreams know me and I them
Each night a subconscious meeting is arranged
Against my will I am forced to attend
a wall of frustration a portent of doom
Night after night terrors they send
Until the sunlight streams once again
I am bound to these phantasms
Because I cannot bear to look away from them
Waking exhausted, shaken and unnerved
yet I cannot stop watching out of morbid curiosity
What will tonight's demons serve?
Oh, for a dreamless night
a calm, peaceful rest for body and soul
where my vivid imagination does not take flight.
Oh, what I'd give for just one dreamless night