by Paulette Guerin
In our shared bed, I forget where I end
and my baby’s mouth begins. Milk threads
through me while I slip into dream.
I walk in my old neighborhood,
looking for a friend who died at 96
of a broken heart. I’m there to tell her it’s okay,
that I’m finally here, because that day at the hospital
they wouldn’t let me go in to say goodbye.
I’m walking on a loop around the deserted
town because I know she’s waiting,
but I’m woken by my baby’s hand reaching
into my shirt. I come up gasping for air.
My friend is gone; I don’t know where
to visit to say, Here’s the child you would have loved,
that neither of us expected.
This morning I held her head in my lap
as her face went through the involuntary smiles
and frowns of sleep,
relaxing, reforming, slackening to a blank slate.
Her eyes opened, but she did not see me—
there was only the dream, beyond me;
and I thought of how, years from now,
she’ll want to go somewhere I can’t follow,
maybe a movie, maybe a date. There’ll be none
of this holding, looking down from above,
only the same exhale when I know she’s safe,
the same tears when she looks at me
unknowingly and I can’t explain how I formed her
in my womb, and how she formed me.
Photo by Markus Spiske via Pexels