by Kaitlyn Newbery

Right, left. Right, left. Right, left. Turn.
My half-asleep self hums as I pace.

My right foot balances the tight rope edge of the rug,
turning at the lump over the abandoned heating vent.
She only sleeps in complete darkness,
complicating her frequent middle-of-the-night wakings.

I can cross the width of her room in six steps
and still have space to turn without hitting her
head or feet on the wall as I pivot.
If I leave my balancing act, I’m sure to end up in the
middle of the room, unable to find my way
back to her crib.

No one warns you of the darkness
parenting requires you to navigate.
If I lose count of my steps,
I risk running her into the wall.

Limp in my arms, she has no
fear. I sense the danger for both of us.
Right, left. Was that two or three?
I falter and my toe creeps in front of me,
testing the water-space ahead.

I find the lump, take an oversized step, and turn,
sashaying my feet back on course.
I stumble and her toes brush the wall.
She stirs briefly, then nuzzles her head into my neck.

I release my unconsciously held breath;
her breathing slows to match mine.
As one, we move to the crib,
my hip leading the way to take the brunt
of its impact. Humming, I lay her
down and pull the blanket from
where I draped it to wait
while we rocked.

Photo by Bastien Jaillot on Unsplash