Essays, Essays Archive
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crowning: epistolary


sing out, o muse

for the tiny heartbeat

glittering in the gray

The sonogram was clear. It was perfect: white and gray and black in all the right places. The doctor ran a smooth wand across the sticky globe of my belly; his brow went still as he concentrated.

A nurse explained the images on the screen hovering above our heads, icons for worship, proof of a puzzle completed.

Six days ago, I received a call from a genetic counselor in which she told me the blood tests indicated my 16-week-old fetus had a 1 in 104 chance of neural tube defects. For six days, I waited. I held my breath. I walked the streets of an absurd city that did not know how much hinged on one ultrasound, how I would crack the streets wide open with my teeth and rattle the windows with screams if 1 in 104 proved enough.

Sickness, sickness. That night, I placed one palm just above the line marking where my underwear skirted my hipbones. Then: the pop of an impossibly tiny foot flooded me with light.

You were flesh.

The doctor typed across the screen, IT’S A BOY.

sing out, o muse

for the parturient,

old & new souls split

It was too soon but it was your time. At 35 weeks you heard the midwives telling stories of spring storms calling to babies, and you whispered in my ear. I dreamed all the fluid drained from my body, and I saw your curled form perfectly outlined in my belly. The next morning, the water from my womb flooded the floor. I left a puddle on the bright white bathroom tile and hobbled into Labor & Delivery with a towel rapidly swelling between my thighs.

The pain rolled in waves, deep deep deep in the ocean of my body. I sobbed, penitent. And then time folded in on itself, a ribbon, and I was pushing so, so quietly, an army of NICU nurses waiting in the corner. They expected you to come into the air and not know how to use it.

But you breathed, oh how you breathed. Your lungs bloomed bright pink with the force of your screams. I watched your blood spread to the surface of your body.

My son, my son.

sing out, o muse,

for the blinded,

fingertips drawing maps

It has been 14 months, and I am still becoming your mother. I am negotiating a dark terrain, a moss-slick cave, the inconstant glow of fireflies showing me where to put my feet. You have blue eyes and yellow curls at the nape of your pale neck. We read books about flowers, and your body trembles with perfect joy. You put one finger on a round, red poppy.

I did not think the universe would send me a son. My path is bright with feminine energy. I have written and argued and shouted into the night about a woman’s right to bodily autonomy, rape and a culture of violence, all the crimes inflicted upon female bodies.

And here you are, my son, in possession of a body with the potential to create violence. Chaos. I have birthed the weapon of my own destruction. This is unexpected. The universe has made a mistake. Surely, surely–

You are my journey and my map, and I am a teacher in search of a radical lesson in your topography. I will teach you kindness, patience, humility, love. To be gentle is the hardest thing. Listen, listen…there are voices murmuring under the din and you will tune your ear to them.

You are too good, too pure and sweet. You are honey golden on the comb. There are others who have written a role for you. It is old, entrenched. Do not read the script. Burn the script. In the silence between the lines runs centuries of blood and sweat.

You are bigger than your skin.

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Filed under: Essays, Essays Archive


Lacy Cunningham is a sometimes-vagabond and full-time bleeding heart currently residing in Broomfield, CO. She completed a Masters in English Literature with a Women’s and Gender Studies Graduate Certificate at Duquesne University in 2008, and discovered digital poetry during a brief love affair with the University of Colorado at Boulder. She has published a chapbook entitled The Hospital Papers with Stamped Books Press, and has been featured in :lexicon, Ophelia Street, Pear Noir!, and Springgun Press. She takes poetry seriously, but not herself.

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