Since you were born I’ve never been alone,
never will be, standing now at zero on a line
that stretches out forever to the right.
Always at the edges of my sight
you pull at me, your dance a haunting grace.
Nevermore I’ll live in just one place:
my restless senses stretch like tentacles into
other rooms and lives to protect you.
Since you were born, I’ve stood upon a cliff,
exposed to gales until I’m stony stiff
with fear, which I disguise as rules or whims
to keep you safe. Humming the hymn
of “all is well” to soothe myself, I stride
ahead. But dizzy with an inward tide,
the wash and pull between “enough” and “should,”
I flinch. Constant atonement, motherhood.
Since you were born there comes sometimes at night
a sense there’s something dark that I must fight
without a sword. At night, upon my chest
you and all your children’s children rest,
a leaden handicap of dread, of grace.
The future is both straightjacket and brace;
for though I gasp, I must admit the cost
of breath is just: untethered, I’d be lost—
because, since you were born, I’ve tasted fruit
I never knew could grow from the thin root
of my cold life. I’ve savored all your grins,
your honeyed sleep, the freshness of your skin—
delicious. This new fruit is more than sweet;
my tongue prickles with terror as I eat.
But even terror lends a tang: it’s joy,
since you were born. My son, it tastes like joy.