There is a globe of silence around them
after the doctor leaves with his uncertain news.
Will the lesions on my mother’s spine
spread upward, dragging paralysis over
her lungs and heart like a heavy blanket?
Or will the stillness seep from her abdomen,
down her long legs, and out through the soles
of her swollen feet, pooling
at the end of the hospital bed
like the light from the open door?
My father cups her face between his hands,
his crooked middle finger over the pulse point
at her temple, and I wonder if he feels its flutter.
His lips tremble against her dark hair,
she holds his wrist, and my presence
makes their loneliness complete.
“We’ve been through harder fights
than this,” she says and means the two of them.
Her dry throat breaks the words like kindling,
and he blinks, rapidly, his blue eyes.
At home, I kiss your ten fingers and watch
the slow rise and fall of your breath
even after you turn away from me
to sleep. Our daughter, an unborn witness,
rearranges her miniature limbs.
When I press my hand against my abdomen,
she presses back, the way months from now
we will touch hands, palm to palm.
“Firstborn” appeared in Amy Watkins’ book, Milk and Water, available from Yellow Flag Press. Purchase yours today!
Listen to an audio recording of “Firstborn” read by the author!
Amy Watkins grew up with the alligators and armadillos in the Central Florida scrub, the oldest child of a nurse and a carpenter. As a kid, she wanted to be an artist, a doctor, a teacher and a contestant on Star Search; she became a writer instead. Her poems and essays have recently appeared in Bigger Than They Appear: Anthology of Very Small Poems, BloodLotus, and Animal: A Beast of a Literary Magazine. She lives in Orlando with her husband and only child, Alice.
This week’s Wardrobe Best Dressed was selected Nicole Oquendo. Nicole Oquendo is an Assistant Editor for Sundress Publications, and the Nonfiction Editor of Best of the Net. Her most recently published essays and poetry can be found in DIAGRAM, fillingStation, Storm Cellar, and Truck.
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