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Three and a half revolutions
around the sun
in this foreign country
and only once did the loneliness
come close to cracking me:

the baby was only five weeks old
he was exclusively breastfed
and he had colic

my throat was a pincushion
stuffed with ashes and blood,
breathing the furnace-fried winter air
felt like swallowing needles
and I had the kind of fever that
makes you feel like your arms
were attached to your body
with dental floss and
the walls were being tie-dyed
funky fuchsia,
mucus yellow
and Frankenstein green

I’d been bleeding for five weeks
and hadn’t sat on the sitz bath
or showered
for days

and the husband, who was
close to helpless but trying
his best, ran out of paid leaves
and FMLA days and needed
to go to work or
the next paycheck would not
be enough to keep the heat running

my postpartum mind did its best
to understand that the man
and his job were two
different things, just so
my postpartum heart wouldn’t
hate him too much

I sat on that dingy couch
dotted with diaper leaks
surrounded by stained burp cloths
holding my son to my breast
counting the minutes he’d
been peaceful and the cumulative
hours that his endless crying
made my head throb and
the illusion on the walls undulate

sending desperate text messages
to every woman I knew
within driving distance,
not quite friends, only names,
faces and exchanges that might
pass for kindness,
asking for assistance
and getting no replies

I had to turn away from
the little angel
every time I coughed

and I coughed and I coughed
and spat crimson demons out
and I wept
and I prayed oh God oh God
don’t let him catch what I have,
my sweet child, my avatar
of unconditional love

the early evening arrived
and turned my misery
into sobbing shadows
I had nothing left in me
to get up and turn on the lights

and that was how he came home
and found us, in the dark.
He placed his arms around us
and I knew I had made it
through the day.
The house looked like
a battlefield and reeked
of disease, but I made it.

“Graceful Sadness” by photographer Natalia Drepina


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