Honest mane

Sometimes my wedding ring

Tears a few strands of the hair

I grew out for you

Pulling it back for the hundredth time

Away from sticky little hands

Threads falling to the floor

To be swept up later

And though they grow back

It’s starting from scratch

Little newborn curls

Among tired lady strands

Strange and mismatched

As the tight bun reveals

Deciding which are more honest

Half symmetry

I am her decadent counterpart

She is the wiry, established one

No give in her hips

Staving off the inevitable cold bed

With emotion on stages

Instead of fights by the morning refrigerator

Building each step calculatingly

Trying to fill the impending voids

And I 

That young, sweet flesh

Unafraid of butter and sage and sweat

Thighs that spread when I sit

On kitchen countertops

And sing Patsy Cline under my breath

Wooden spoon in hand

Sweet berries staining my lips

Yet in the non-light of the new moon

We mirror each other

Carrying burdens no one else will

That steel in the feminine spine

Bearing the weight our mothers bequeathed 

Loving damaged men

Fear making our breaths shake

In the quiet sometimes

Her more than me

But I’m sure I’ve got time to learn

To cling to cold pillows

Or find witchcraft in my fingers

So I mourn her trembling heart

While I find the smoke in my hair

And bless this fullness of youth

Reincarnation 

We are reborn

Over and over and over

Birthing each other

You started as my rescuer

Became a lover

Fell in my arms

And birthed me your mother

Then lovers again 

To fill me with milk and honey

Birthing me a spine and you a breast

Birthing you his night mother

And I his day one 

Giving you a chance to have the moon

Kiss your ebbing tides

As I found the strength of the sun

Constant and burning 

A fierce feminine peace in your chest

And a warrior’s steel in my bones

The trapeze of our love

Tossing each other into the air

Landing in each other’s skin

Over the one who birthed us both

Again

Fear-guided Gratitude

Little One,
 
Today is Father’s Day. You are just over a year old. You took your first steps this week. You love your blocks and your stuffed Pikachu toy and spaghetti. You are the cutting molars and you want to be held when you hurt. You are soft and sweet, your knees are always dirty from crawling around in the yard when I garden, and your laugh keeps me alive. I want to remember this stage forever.
 
We live in a world that is increasingly connected. And while that is beautiful in many ways, connections bring both love and fear and pain. In a world without electricity, you don’t hear about refugee children on the nightly news. In a world without cars, you rarely concern yourself with people who aren’t from your town. But in these increasingly digital times, we can both order Father’s Day gifts from Japan and hear about wars thousands of miles away. And sometimes, the world weighs on me heavily. I look at you sleeping on your father’s chest and think of children who don’t grow up loved or who get hit by speeding cars or flee war-torn countries in their mother’s arms. My heart breaks for them and for you. Fear consumes me. I think of the future you might inherit, with its school shooters and lead in the water and mental illness, and I want to keep you safe forever.
 
But I know the world doesn’t work like that. Children grow out of naps with their fathers and into bumps and bruises and walking and running and falling in love. And the more parents try to protect, the more the risk of smothering small spirits rises. I want you to bloom, not become root-bound in a too-tiny flowerpot. So I look at you, with the marinara sauce on your chin and the teething toy in your hand and help you learn to walk, no matter how much it scares me. Let the world break your heart a little once in a while, and then let that show you the beautiful things to focus on.
 
Heartbroken and grateful,

Mama

I love that it’s enough 

that I look at you and say 

yes, yes, yes

No unwrapping required

And smile until you hit the peak

Parachuting your fall from grace

cushioning your descent

With my plushly-upholstered thighs

(Had I been darker,

They would be called ‘luscious’)

A few devoutly lapsed verses

Opinions my youth shouldn’t make

And a promising laugh

Your sighs repeating

It is enough

It is enough

It is enough

And god said it was good.

Breasts Part II

My mother has breast cancer. Just as her mother did before her. And here I am, looking at my chest, knowing my breasts are time bombs waiting to go off. Every bit of news from my mother and her surgeons has been “optimistic”, but then each new step is worse than the optimistic estimate they gave us, so it hits us hard every time. Every time, we aren’t supposed to worry until we have all the information, but each appointment gives us little, except that it’s worse than they thought and we need more appointments to figure everything out.
 
There is really nothing I can do to help. With a young child, being with her is more about me keeping my child away from anything valuable at their house, and she can’t pick him up until her stitches heal anyway, so my presence is not useful. Flowers don’t fix anything, meals are covered for now, so all I can do is keep family members updated and plan normal family holidays at my house for the foreseeable future. I send her pictures of the baby. I ask her if she needs anything. I wait.
 
And as I wait, trying to focus on planning my son’s first birthday party, I can’t help but think about my future. As soon as my breasts stopped producing milk, they became nothing more than omens of future doom, waiting to infect my body. I think I’ll try and go for some genetic testing, see if there’s anything preventable we can do. And when I considered it with my husband, I thought even about a preventative mastectomy. It made sense, but somehow made me emotional. So I asked him what he would do if he were in my shoes. He said, “If an unnecessary part of me could kill me, I’d cut it off. But this is totally your decision. I don’t have a body part that I’m emotionally connected to the way women are with breasts. I don’t know what it’s like to be a woman, so it would be your call.”
 
Having a body part that is only ‘functional’ for a small portion of my life is a strange thing. Breasts are so entwined with identity, with how clothes fit, with sexuality, with femininity as a whole. And yet, the logical part of me says, “It’s not like they are a vital organ anymore. Why be so attached if they could kill you?” And, yet again, I’m thinking about breasts all the time. Maidens crave their curves, mothers their nourishment, and crones their wisdom. How decorative they now are, yet how sad I’ll be if I have to lose them.

Weight

My mother has always thought

Her house was made of survival 

Built on a tiny, slight stone

When that pebble was meant to be skipped

Across a forgotten pond

Not kept forever

A strange kind of hated treasure 

Convincing the world of the weight

In her pockets

Sinking into a fainting couch 

Until her skin began to graft with it

Now 

When the real boulders come

Her atrophied legs can’t stand in strength 

And her captors 

Whom she allowed to name her

Will pretend to carry that boulder in her stead

Saving up the capital of faux goodwill 

For when she is dust