Sub-floor

Always the footsteps down the hall

a forewarning mewl of her lover’s call

As the hallway light through the cracked door pours

on the creaking, glossy, wood-planked floors

The name spilling from her lips abhors

“Yes, daddy?”

 

Then the quietness in the dark returns

Little lace duvet that has been down-turned

And the sleep comes, graciously, with ease

when it’s done, and he has been appeased

Yet we still hear God’s voice in night’s breeze

True Daddy.

On My Daughter’s Birthday

She would’ve been five at 9:01 this morning.

It’s sort of funny how we feel disenfranchised upon loss, as though we have been stolen from. Whenever I look back on my life, it comes in chunks or waves. It comes as so many of Sylvia Plath’s figs. It seems I have lived a multitude of lives without earning the right to any of them. Each has been a spectacular and surprising gift. Upon my daughter’s death, I became even more assured and aware of this gift.

I have been the rebellious child, the naive young wife, the poverty-stricken single mother, the lost divorcé, the woman burying her daughter, and now the comparatively wealthy and undeserving middle-class American mail-carrying Christian. So many people in my life have only gotten one or two of those things, and here I stand surrounded by experiences that have been lovingly placed to guide me home. There has been so much tragedy in the name of touching my life. I can’t help but wonder how many other lives are being touched today in this moment of suffering for myself and my beautiful family.

Today, I remember the 8 months, 5 days and 15 minutes that were my life as a mother, and I give praise and gratitude to our heavenly father, who knows just what it means to watch a child die and has bonded us in a union unique to only parents of lost children. Amen.

For Mom

The caves seem changed now,

harder to traverse.

With the guide near, we felt a sense of confidence.

Assuredly.

Stepping onward; trekking with fervor and excitement.

Now we call out for the guide,

but we know she has gone before us and stands above us

in the light.

slipping on wet rock

one less spark to show our way

and one less voice to echo off of the cave walls

“Don’t turn left. It’s all dead ends that way.”

She knows, because she has explored that path,

and come to the end of it.

Herself.

I recite to those behind me where the steep drops hide

and pray her echoes don’t escape my memory

before I find my way to level ground

and can feel the sun for myself.

Serial 1 A : You know what I mean.

If you’ve ever given birth, then you know what I mean. I was exhausted like never before, and the meds didn’t help. My doctor had prescribed something for the C-section. My fondness of the drug was a bit unnerving, and I used as little as possible. My husband Shane hadn’t bothered putting the bed frame up, so I was stuck sleeping on the couch until my muscles would cooperate enough to let me climb up from the floored mattress.

The dust pan was still lying on the kitchen counter whenever I lost the battle with my lethargy. Grace was breastfeeding, but half of her stirrings were for diapers and cuddling. I rested on the couch and asked Shane to take care of her until he went to bed. I qualified that if a clean diaper wasn’t enough to calm her, he could wake me for a feeding. I hadn’t completed a REM cycle in a month. He mumbled some agreement, and I slipped into shallow rest with the glow and rumble of Shane’s video game humming just 5 feet behind me.

A thump roused me. 2 am.

I looked around, and Grace was gone. There was the sound of inconsistent crying in some distant world. Another thump startled me. I fought my healing tissue to rise and join them in the nursery. I already felt what had happened. I didn’t have any evidence, but I simply new it in my mother’s gut.

I rounded the corner and began to pick up on his frustrated mumbles and sighs. Grace’s crying continued raggedly. I saw him toss her carelessly on the changing table and rip her diaper off, wrestling to put on a new one. Her tiny body squirmed with discomfort and fear.

“What do you think you’re doing?” I shouted.

Shane walked away from the table, leaving Grace alone and half-naked. “What, Abigail? I am changing our daughter’s diaper! You asked me to do this!” Shane was nearly screaming.

I walked over to the table and began checking on Grace. She looked startled, but not necessarily harmed. Shane sat back down at the desktop computer and immersed himself in his usual fantasy world of alien wars and secret pornography, apparently satisfied that I had taken over Grace’s care. I dressed Grace and held her, feeding her for a few minutes before she began to slumber. I rubbed her cheeks and put her down. Irritated, she began to squirm and cry to be held. I comforted her as best I could without allowing her to sleep. We sat like that, the two of us, for another two hours. I had to make sure she didn’t have a concussion. I fed her once more, then held her long enough for her to return to sleep. Was this as bad as it seemed? The grogginess made everything so hazy, so foggy. I placed my hand on Grace’s leg to ensure her presence, and I fell back asleep with her in the nearby bassinet.

I awoke again at 9 am. I heard the sound of Shane’s computer beginning updates before shutting down. He made his way to the bedroom and climbed into the queen sized bed, just 1 hour before his shift started at his parent’s store.

I turned on the cold water in the shower, but only to mask the sound of canceling Shane’s computer updates and entering his desktop. I sensed his jealousy, but that’s not all I sensed in him. I opened his history, and relief swept over me.

RELIEF. I was relieved. Is that what you’re supposed to feel whenever you find daddy/daughter porn on your husband’s desktop computer? I suppose I was just glad that it was all over with; the lies, the addictions, the endless cycle of jobs, and the empty refrigerator. I could finally come up for air.

I turned off the computer and walked into the bedroom where he was quickly falling asleep. “You’re not going to work?” I asked. I was glad for another reason to make him leave, to not tip my hand.

“Abigail, I’ve been up all night.” he said

“So you’re not going?” I asked

“No.”

My steady voice replied, “Okay. Are you leaving, or are we?”

“Abigail Marie, what are you talking about?” he demanded. He knew I hated it when he spoke to me like a scolded child, and my apathy was further assured. He arose from the bed and balled his hand into a fist, but I did not cower.

“A black eye? You think that’s a threat? You could cut out both of my eyes and I could still see straight through you.” My bold carelessness threw him off, and he climbed back into bed.

“I don’t see how you expect me to possibly go to work after you act like this.” His whining had begun, and it was never short-winded. I was blessed by his fatigue.

“You may leave, or you may sleep. If you sleep, I will assume that you’ve chosen to stay and we will be gone before you wake up.” The formal words spilling from my mouth were contractual and cold.

Shane turned to me and started to say something in that detestable voice, but I picked up a bag. He got out of bed and snatched the bag from my hands, whimpering something about being given no choice. He continued along with noises somehow akin to both a growl and a shrieking child, but I heard no words. Somewhere amidst the clatter, he left.