Vessel at Harbor

I would rather the staggering
into the next daylight incomplete
and unprepared like one of those
dreams choking on symbols
half of which I won’t remember
when my eyes open.
I would rather the cycle
of beginning with my hormones
caught between its teeth
like a marionette’s strings, jerky
involuntary movements that
are all reason and no rhyme
purging past pleasures
bent at the waist over a pot
of porcelain, my pain
echoing on the bathroom walls
and escaping through the vents
sending him running: that love.

Evolved and almost unrecognizable
from its very first form
of lattes, bucket of roses,
Jupiter Avenue lights.
I’d rather be held by the same
questions with the same answers
circling like waves
as I count the weeks, the months
“I’m not OK but I will be”
there’s another life inside of me
wreaking havoc and all bets
are off on when the nerves would
calm, or if. But I wanted this,

rather this, a slow-motion redemption
multiplying from the cells
of my own flesh, this, my body
a battlefield of mineral supplements
and medically induced sleep
twenty lab technicians handling
twenty vials of my blood
shuffled deck of sky,
tides and triggers of tears

than the blank slate I had
sang so many pining songs for,
than the illusion of safety, cans
upon cans of white paint
and temporary fixes,
than not knowing who I am
than nights of lucid sinning
and mornings of brutalized peace

Sometimes Motherhood is a Harsh Winter

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.

Housewife, Half-Empty

Sometimes reality
like routine
is a stubborn rock that
knows to say only one phrase.

But sometimes reality
staggers through doors
with a raised voice
hoarse and desperate at the edges
and ticking nerves,
squinting at lights and
recognizing among the rowdy crowd
only the faces that come from
places of missed chances
and all else are but
cold masks and
a pile of bills,
vomit on the shirt,
the stretch of day
permanently disfigured by
chronic coughing and
plans of rising like the sun
folded into uneven eighths
and lost
under dingy furniture.

We All Just Need A Little Rain

Curtains of water
heavier than brocade
hung from ceilings of nimbus
cloaking the vulnerable street
in damp shadows and rhythms
of nature’s intrumentals.
All the world outside is chaos
for a young mind but
I’ve already decided
he would either know
or receive the unknown
like a guest with
great stories to tell.
So I took his hand
and opened the door
and guided his steps to his
first foray into losing
everything he is
to the song of his five
senses taking over.
And the rain fell on him
with the vigor and majesty
of the universe greeting him
as one of its own,
like a transfusion of life,
like being surrounded by time,
and oh, he received it
with genuine laughter,
splashes of toddler syllables
flowing in syncopated harmony
with the rippling of puddles
forming around his rubber
Spiderman slippered feet,
so much joy and enough
bewilderment to mimic thunder
and knock on the quiescent
chrysalis of his fledgling
humanity, impatient for glory
and open for what gifts
cold air and slick roads
and bolts of lightning
and a washing off of dust
from walls and sleep from eyes
and an unapologetic unfettering
of an illusory stasis
have in store.

* * *

He’ll get swept up in that
feeling again, someday,
in other points in his life,
a standing ovation, perhaps,
a three-point shot, a kiss,
standing up to a great fear.
May his spirit always find its way
back to that giggling drunk
little child playing in the rain.

Pan, Before He Could Fly

I was teaching him words in the backyard
a light, carefree beginning to
hoping that someday he realizes
the power they possess

and he was learning to feel
with awareness
and names
he’d try his best to pronounce

“Moon,” I said,
pointing to the third quarter
cutout of light on the dusty blue sky
as the sun glowed its last
from beneath the rooftops

“Moon,” he repeated,
getting on his little feet
and bravely holding up his little hand
to try to wrap his fingers
around that gibbous thumbprint
of things nocturnal, an unknown world
ushered in by lightning bugs

he tried again a few times
on tiptoes and with outstretched arms
to close the distance
between himself and this symbol
for a new word that he might
add to his small square tin box
of possessions, along with
“pen” and “car” and “triangle”
and “sleep” and “hug”

(that will hopefully take years
before including “struggle”
and “fail” and “never”)

before sitting back down
on the edge of the now shadow-painted
wooden deck, holding his curiosity,
now edged in sadness, to his chest,
his eyes still fixed on the unreachable
saying “moon, moon” to himself
so he won’t forget

and “Mama”

and all the while I was wishing
I had the power to lift him
high enough
to let him grasp
the bright and beautiful mysteries
found in his many skies
and know firsthand to tell apart
luminescence, reflection
and perpetual fire