viii. most

what I remember is
the lizards scuttling haphazardly
across counters and floorboards
the dust on fire, suspended in midair
as my heart

I checked the locks three, then four times
certain terror came in the form
of booming bass
and stumbling, gold-painted men
their tip buckets and pot bellies full

searing July melted into a bitter new year
like me and she exposed
critters sought refuge in the form of a small shotgun on Music Street
small things, we scatter silently
racing at walls, begging for cracks
to slip between
fear like copper on the tongue
regret a fluorescent buzzing, constant

feebly clutching a broom, I batted and shrieked my way to the open door
the sweeps like a skipping record
or broken heart
a quick two then one
neither brave nor certain + that remains true. 
this skin a speckled road map
recklessness and high heeled acrobatics merging, drawing thick lines
into kneecaps
jagged stripes like burnt tire across
a soft belly
pit stops of apartments + longing
along the route
and a joyful girl's coos my soundtrack

what I remember is the freedom + chaos
what you remember is me

vi. Inhale

Twice, I’ve been without air, and felt myself flailing. Twice I’ve wondered if I’d catch my breath and I considered what might happen if I could not.

On a family vacation when I was a girl, I jumped into the deep end of the pool. Not so deep that there was a diving board, but much deeper than I knew how to swim. I jumped high and big, and as I came down into the cool water, I felt my body exhale a bit. It was unintentional, but there it was, and now I was deep beneath the rippling water, shorter on breath and struggling to surface. I’d never been a spectacular swimmer and preferred to bob in the shallow ends. I was always in it for the cool relief and the gathered friends. And so here I was, climbing my way to the top and wondering who would come to my rescue if I couldn’t make it.

And then I did. I gasped and looked about. My mother cracked one sleeping eye open, my brother cannonballed somewhere further down, and my dad looked up from his book. And I remember realizing the world could end for one moment, for one person, and it might go unnoticed.

It was like this in the moment I left your father. I left him in my heart and mind nearly four months before I truly walked away. Perhaps, I left him a bit each day from the moment I heard your beating heart, but I jumped in on the day you were born. Holding you in my arms, I found myself deep beneath the surface of the world, consumed and encased by my love for you, and entirely present in the cool waters of motherhood. I felt myself sinking, getting further and further away from rising, and wondering who might save me now. Breathless within myself, I went on unnoticed, ever falling to the bottom of the pool, and watching as my last breath bubbled to the top.

And then, so much like the first time, I found some reserve and pushed my way upwards, emerging, gasping, sucking in all the air I could gather, and taking in the light.

As I look back now, I see that the strength of motherhood is much like the strength of womanhood and girlhood – unknown, unseen, unrecognized except by we who embody it. We are driven, daily, to find that last drop of energy or hope or courage, and we are constant and steady in our drive to continue on. When I’m asked how I mother alone, or mother at all, I must admit that it’s easier than it seems because it’s a battle I’ve been fighting since I was a girl. I’ve been building up the reserves, stockpiling determination, hoarding my power for the moments when I will be tested, breathless, and full of despair.

You will be like this. One thing I know is this constantly changing, heartbreaking, wicked world will make you brave beyond reckoning, and you will be secretly unstoppable. On land, folks will glance up, turn over, or go on. They will miss the weeks of quiet packing and the screamed please. People will not notice the fortress of resolve, which lives beneath your skin, propelling you up, up, up. And they needn’t.

Twice I’ve been floundering and dipping, and twice I’ve summoned the power of all the women within me. Twice I’ve been unsinkable. And so, I think we can manage today and tomorrow and the depths to come.

iv. Fire

Since my ignition, a fire has burned bright and high in the world, and I have watched it dance in the night. I was constantly aware of the heat of possibility and so I built a bonfire of fascination with the magic of things. A wild fire, burning all in its path, and clearing a wide space where it grew, glowing marvelously. I have been rich with ideas and pipe dreams, confident beyond reason and a child of pure imagination. I stretched and shifted, and worked my daydreams into realities, chasing the world I sought, ever-creating myself to become some new thing. I worshipped at my fire, tossing in the emblems of a each past life, hauling logs of love to its base. I created an unbreakable stone circle around this inferno of self. The heat was all-consuming, and I was captivated by the blaze. I created this magnificence with the willfulness of a young girl, determined to outshine and eager to equal the intensity of the fire I loved. I regularly moved about it, taking on new angles, hopeful the light would dance newly across my being, lighting my way with burning. The fire raged, and I called it my own, and I felt as though I was creating, but as girlhood became womanhood, I was left with sticks for kindling and uncertain of the purpose for stoking these dying flames. The embers slowly died out over what I thought my fire should be, my arm growing weary from the business of keeping burning alive. 

In the chill of dawn, my stomach turned sour as a I surveyed the ashy wreckage. Picking through the dust, fractured bits of a former soul lay broken and bare in the grey light. Alone and uncertain in the vast clearing, I stood waiting, trembling. For the deafening silence of a fire run cold is not nearly as lonesome as the sudden wondering that the source of warmth in my life had been outside myself.

And then the graceful sun rose, assuredly and with a steadiness born of ancient confidence. Bending around corners and breaking through cracks, this burning light kissed the earth and enveloped the wide world in her embrace. Standing in the beams of glory, I grew warm with the knowledge that I have loved – dreams, ideas, mornings, words, kisses – and I have been altered by it. The fire I tended was my very self, not the lone love I longed for. It was my soul which I fanned – chucking in the dalliances of youth and the freedoms of girlhood, with lovers at my side or far from me. It was my essence reaching skyward. It was my very spirit which burned so bright. I had so lost myself in the tending, that I could no longer see that which I minded. I am no victim to the flames of love or girlhood or dreams; I am a phoenix reborn in fire and ever grateful. Fires are untenable beings whose entire purpose demands culmination; no fire last forever, nor any sunrise, nor high noon, nor sunset, nor night. Each stage is a blessing and challenge in its own right. 

Firelight illuminates the darkness, casting long shadows and sending flickers of wonder dancing across the night. Fire promises magic and makes the ordinary brilliant. For so very long, I was held in its grasp, entranced by the amber glow of passion and fantasy, of searching. Water in the form a round girl child doused the fire that for so many years I tended, awakening my soul. 

Perhaps words of mystic metaphor are too delicate to encapsulate my meaning: I had been lost in longing to be magical; to be adored; to be desired. I was spellbound, and sought all manner of external inspiration and focus. I tended to the fires of the world, and thought little of the fire within. Until one day, it was no longer possible to ignore my purpose and calling. As I sat in the sunlight that morning – the morning of my rebirth – I found myself anew, and not a bit alone, for within my heart and womb grew a tiny flame. No single moment is clearer to me than the awareness of my child beneath my heart. No poetry sultry and smooth enough to merit the consuming splendor of her existence. The grandeur of the blessing she bestowed upon my spirit swiftly removed all concern for that fire pit. I walked in from the clearing and put away the fans and drew a warm bath, soaking my feet. It was the first act of motherly love I bestowed upon myself, hopeful the love I showed my weariest bits would seep deep into my being and bless the child who lay within.

I imagine one day she’ll wander deep into the woods, with only a torch to guide her way, and the dancing light with play tricks on her eyes, planting worry and wonder where once was peace. I know she’ll stumble into clearings and dance about the fires she finds there, doing her part to keep the magic burning and falling in love beneath the stars. I have walked that path, and there is no shame in exploring heat of the world. Indeed, it’s only through this that we may find our way to a brighter, steadier warmth. There is a place for fire, in all is wildness. There is delight in allowing oneself to become engulfed in the flames and consumed by the heat. But fire is a trick of man which I may conjure and stoke at will. This ephemeral joy is a too impermanent to build a world around.

Fire alters the essence of a thing, and has transformed me anew. In the journey to now, my core was melted to a puddle and reformed, reshaped, redefining itself. The fire of youthfulness has burnt me, scarring me. My body bears the marks of these trials, those loves. I am proud of these stretches, the discoloration, the visibility of time. This body of bumps and rolls. This body loose and stretched. I own this. In the end, my story will be one not of love lost or fiery girlish desires, but of resolute and steadfast constancy in the eyes of a girl. This is motherhood.

iii. Whispers

When I was a girl, I imagined the moon held the secrets of the earth and stars and all the creatures of the world. My home was a place of science and discovery, but not faith, and so I held this wish in my heart quietly – the wish that my prayers could be heard. At night, I would share my secrets. Moon, I would say, gingerly airing out the depths of me. I knew I could hear the moon whisper back to me, Yes.  

Like the expanding and waning moon, I daily shifted, and resisted consciousness. I made proclamations about my being, but I ran from reality and love and solid ground and fixed points for an eternity it seems. I longed deeply for their presence in my life, but fear was stronger than desire and so I leapt, bolted, fled. I often gazed at the moon, silently releasing the contents of my inner world, hoping she would provide an answer. This twisted abandon was the night of my life, the quiet, seeking darkness of my existence. 

His strong arms and wide chest caught me on a sunny, crisp afternoon, and I paused for awhile in his embrace. He was wild and starry-eyed and magic, and I was surprised to call him my own. Our world was deeply passionate, sensual, humorous, and unsteady. It felt on the verge of perfection or destruction at all moments, and I often wondered aloud if I was still running, chasing the horizon and dawn’s needed radiance.   

Stars are born following a collapse, and so was I. An implosion of sorts, as I fell into myself with the creation of life, with my daughter growing beneath my heart like a secret. For many months, I looked at moon, listening for her reverberating solace. Yes, was the reply, tinny and distant. This was not the familiar moon, the voice in my head, but rather a more tender, purer melody. It began as an echo, and grew into a whisper, a cough, a hiss, a sigh. I couldn’t make out the words, but I know now that it was she – my child, my moon. Yes, she said.

In the earliest days, her sounds were still foreign, and the music inside her heart was muffled by the loudness of the new world. The fast-moving cars and big ideas of the outside shook the walls of our home, and it was weeks it seemed before we came up for air. In those days, I and the beings around me sought to calm to rising swell deep in my gut with shushing and warm hands on my arms. The embraced me and my girl, and they helped to shroud me, shield me, wrap me in the velvety darkness of familiarity and constancy.   

And so her voice grew strong and steady, and the veil was thrown off. The precious sigh that had overtaken my ears since my daughter’s birth was her self calling to me. Her earthly presence made me strikingly aware of her birthright: a conscious guide, a mama in all senses, to lead and carry and lift and honor her being. I looked to the sky, and whispered to the moon, knowing that to fully become mama, I must step beyond the tranquilizing darkness and into the auspicious light. Yes, she said, and my path was written. 

Awakening is a tiny crack in the wounded, yearning soul where light slips in and stretches the bounds of awareness. To walk across the bridge of awareness, to become conscious of a longing heart or fluttering spirit, is to step into the light of awakening. It blesses the body with warmth and hope. And yet, it is merely the beginning. I walked across that bridge alone, with my child strapped to my chest, our heartbeats loud and defiant and synchronized. Though I often look back, I cannot journey back, for on this side the land is lush and green.  

Transitioning from awakening to rebirth is a jagged path, and no easy feat. Flowery words cannot decorate the painful and disorienting anguish of acute heartache. The birth of my moon child was, for me, a glorious awakening and a tremendous, crushing blow to the fragile love I held tightly in my hands. Oh, how I desired forever, and how deafening the silence of a lonely existence.

I did not leave my lover because I lacked love. I left because I became aware of the work within me left undone. I left because I took a solemn, private oath to embrace all that I am meant for and to be. I left because awareness is a beautiful reckoning, but true ownership and love of Self is deliberate, persistent, resolute commitment to healing, reflective, mindful, daily growth. I was a creature wrapped in fear: fear of supposed failure in love and creation, fear of achievement, fear of acknowledgment, fear of untapped strength and womanly power, fear of my voice, fear of my true heart. I was merely running from true awareness of myself and the infinite, divine possibility within me. I was terrified to embrace the full power of my being and so I drowned it in late nights and insecurities and misplaced affections. I had for so long separated my lunar secrets from my daily actions that my being was fractured and wanting. I desired illuminating lightness of spirit and purpose. The impossible thought of looking into my child’s eyes with anything but total clarity behind my own sent me searching, and I am reborn, refreshed, renewed. 

I've yet to settle into my full realness. I believe the greatest piece of art, the most authentic life, the sweetest victory one can ever create is an honest, true Self, and a life built around it. In my walk towards this moment I have discovered that being "true to myself" does not mean a steadfast adherence to one version of my life, my body, my thoughts, but rather an acceptance of the ever-developing goddess within. Rebirth is a continuing practice, a daily meditation, a choice we mamas make time and again. The business of rebirthing is actively choosing fullness and actualization in each glorious moment. And so, I am a fiercely unfinished being, with fingers and toes in many pots. I dabble and dip, determined to discover the waiting pieces of myself, like water molecules floating through space, hopeful a collection will gather and rain upon my open soul.

Once I was a girl, staring at the sky, praying for a response. I am a woman now. An ever-changing, incomplete, striving, aching, pulsating woman, and I hear the moon’s voice strong and clear not in the distance, but within. The moon points to me and says, Mama, and I say YES.




ii. Scarring

A sweet hummingbird playing at landing, she dances at threshold of our front door, pointing at clouds and cats, not yet venturing onto the stoop. Pitter-patters drum the hardwood floor – an excavator unearthing magnets beneath laundry piles, daring the mouth of the hallway bin to swallow goats and tigers and elephants. Laughter overtakes her, bursting from her belly, and she catches her breath, eager to earn a reaction again. Entire afternoons are spent peeking behind curtains, feigning surprise. She is a delicate, mindful girl.


It had been a simple accident. 

She likes to pull the Velcro tabs on her tiny brown shoes and giggles at the tearing sound. Scrip, scrip, first right, then left, detaching the t-strap and freeing her feet. The tinkling titter comes from the back of her throat like a bird call as she flutters about the sidewalk, glancing time and again over her shoulder, ensuring mama is close behind.

And then.

Tripping over the loosened shoe, she mostly caught herself, one knee taking her weight as her outstretched hands smacked at the pavement. I sucked in the hot air of an Indian summer, stuck watching as her surprised face leaned forward, unsteady as a hatchling, scratching her flawless veneer ever so lightly on the pavement. No tears fell, but the brief shock was apparent and consuming, and her bird call turned somber as I swallowed my heartache.

For many days I tended to a sliver in her fair skin, rubbing coconut oil into her milky velvet smoothness, checking my own vanity as it healed over, every trace of its existence vanished like the initial surprise of the fall itself. She remained a flittering creature, unfazed by my doting, looking instead from knee to knee, examining the startling difference between marked and untouched parts of herself. Cleaning the tiny pinkness of her cheek, attending to her so specifically, I found myself anxious. I contemplated an unwanted milestone, the first of many puckish antics, and discovered a yearning to preserve the pristine surface of her existence.

What, I wondered, was this knowing sinking beneath my ribs?

I was seven the first time I saw the bright white world beneath my brown casing. Running quickly across the play yard, I tripped in mulch and splayed my little self about the black top. The impact ripped my tights - a white, wooly pair I loved with a quilted pattern. A wide flap of skin that used to cover my knee hung now from the cap. I stared at the shocking alabaster, a foreign sight, as small capillaries allowed blood to break the surface like runners at a race’s end. How odd and sharp the pain, I thought. I wore large bandages across the wound for weeks and was irritated by the itchy growth of new skin around the edge. It is my first memory of a chink in my supple armor.

At twenty-one, working for a film producer off Spring Street in Manhattan. I never found vintage boots in my modern size nines, and I had worn down my lone pair. My heel pushed into the back, stretching the leather, and the sole popped off often. Many visits to a cobbler built a friendship between Hank and I, who only shook his head when I entered the shop. One frigid, sunny morning, I exited the subway onto the sloped sidewalk. With a whoosh, my foot slipped from beneath me, sending my knee into the ragged asphalt. I limped seven blocks to the office and begged an Oscar-winner for a band aid shamefully, running to Rite-Aid on my lunch break for new tights.

New Orleans, 25, and my bike tire caught in the streetcar track on a rainy morning, wedging itself and sending me careening over the handlebars. My slick trench coat shielded me as I landed in a puddle, the force propelling me beneath a parked car.

I’ve wobbled in high heels, drunk on champagne and a shimmery new love. I’ve tripped across cobblestones in Scotland, chasing art and the dawn. I’ve scraped and torn my outer layer countless times. My brown skin has been nicked and bruised and scarred, tossed about and gashed wide open. In those days merely my pride and a few pairs of tights were damaged. I have long ago learned to forgive myself the clumsy missteps of my feet and look past the circular faded scars of a life lived joyfully.

As I reinvent myself through motherhood, I expose dormant fears, and nursing her petite cut, I found a rumbling in my gut that spoke of judgment. Of taunts and gossip. Imperfections can pierce souls such as sensitive as she, my heart whispered. Injury is the business of growing up. Ache and hurt and wounds are rights of passage into adulthood, and perhaps the single unifying thread. This is childhood, I told my heart, hoping to calm the bubbling up of worry. But it persisted, steady and lingering in my mind. Poking at me in the night, I opened a space for the nagging to untangle and reveal itself, and I heard the voice I had so determinedly drowned out:

At least I’m not mixed.

Of all the forgotten youthful blunders, there is one distinguished bitterness. Back on that second grade black top was a painted track. Two lanes stretched from end to end, and I often liked to whip across. My knee fully healed, I had begun to take up sprinting with students, and found I was rather good at a short distance. I held the honor of having beaten many boys, and a girl in my class who never much cared for me challenged my speed one afternoon. We raced, and when beaten, she puckered her lips as if tasting the tart shame. In my childish cleverness, I asserted her big feet had slowed her down, and she informed me she cared little.

At least I’m not mixed. So haughty and confident in her whispered violence.

I held a lump of sorrow in my throat that afternoon, and snuck two cookies before my mother came home from work. I let the tears fall freely as I asked her what mixed meant. I remember the pause before she spoke, and the gentle ring of her soft voice as she explained. It made sense to me: to be of two humans, and to be their blended offering to the world. I wondered who was not mixed by this definition and began to take easy pride in the word. I am mixed, I said strongly, my voice unwavering. To me, it meant, I am theirs, I am equal parts of them.

My pearly girl is lighter than I – a copy of her grandmother’s coloring, ivory and blonde-tipped. I feel the weight of watching eyes upon me as we navigate the world heart to heart. The deafening echo of those words rings in my ears with cruel sharpness these twenty odd years later. The sting of being labeled and marked penetrates a soft spot in my heart. Words like nanny cut me to the quick, and I recognize in staring faces the disbelief and awe of a mother and child so differently shaded. Alabaster she and bronze I. The glances send the blood rushing to my cheeks, and I recall this moment in the kitchen with my mother, who handed me a cookie unknowingly as she gave logic to my grief. I look at my child and in her eyes, her wrinkled nose, her six-toothed grin I see myself. I am yours, I say.

And so, it occurred to me that the deep, reverberating fear which had lodged in my throat, unspeakably chilling was not the inescapable wounds of a life lived out loud, with glee and revelry, cheerfully fooling around, but rather the imperceptible. The visible scars of youth are trifling compared to the invisible indignities, and yet we are equal parts of them.

This tiny wobble had opened wide for me a frightful, concealed, neglected wound: I cannot govern how my child is known. By scars or color of her skin, by trifling casualty or monstrous calamities. I have no authority over the opinions of bystanders and meddling observers. A schoolyard suffering, whether spill or spoken, is out of my hands. She will be injured over and over, and trauma is not limited to superficial injuries, but can be epic, visceral, penetrating wounds. I wanted to heal this. I found myself covering her smooth skin in clothes, hoping to protect and shield her from the jagged paths and bumpy journeys of the world.

And then.

The lingering southern heat made the fall morning humid, and I pulled a sweet purple dress over her tawny curls. Slipping arms through polka-dotted holes, I leaned her onto her back, tickling her belly and listening to her snickering song. I pulled crisp white socks over precious toes, kissing her knees. I hadn’t notice the healed spot. I had missed the new growth releasing the past and taking hold, but there, on her knee, was a circular scar of lily-white. Against this, her pale skin looked golden, and the breath soared from my lungs.

I cannot reign over the vision of my child. I can only tend to the wounds. I can wash clean the dirt of the world and words, allowing time to take its course healing her. She is all the stardust and drumbeats of the world in a tender, fluttering, soaring being. As the trips and falls and glides through the world, she will leave bits of herself and her soul on all creatures and trails. She comes from a clumsy brown woman, and will become one. 

i. The Hotel Modern

My driving teacher was a short German woman. I recall very little about her beside the thick accent and her dark wavy hair. She was very particular about shoes, that I remember, and would make students change from sandals as they were not appropriate footwear for the car despite the lazy heat of May in Virginia. I often wondered if she kept a pair of driving shoes like I’d read characters would do with gloves. My sessions were with unremarkable kids my age who had failed the course at school or who, like me, were avoiding taking it in summer. I practiced on Saturdays with my father as my mother was too skittish a passenger. Once while living in Mexico with her first husband, after a day of sunning and swimming, they drove back home over a steep mountain. She fell asleep in the passenger seat, and he fell asleep at the wheel. She awoke to them falling off the edge, and they were only caught by a tree, its branches like arms spread wide to cradle their fall. Needless to say, the memory stuck with her, and she struggled to trust the driving capabilities of others. Now, arriving at the hotel in slippers and my work clothes, tote bags haphazardly packed, I thought of that small woman, and it occurred to me that these hadn’t been appropriate driving shoes.

The valet opened my door with formality, and if he was surprised by my appearance, he didn’t let on. New Orleans is humid every day of the year, and on this winter night the wet, cold air shocked my bones and froze the tears pooling under my chin. The silly luggage cart with one wobbly wheel inched ever closer to the curb as he loaded my belongings. I hadn’t packed much but clothes for the next day and a few loved toys, but I had been sure to grab her favorite blanket and a two-pocket folder containing our important documents which I had tucked in a drawer after her birth. Nearly everything had been in the car, piling up in the backseat over months of runs to Target for odds and ends. I gently pulled the handle, easing open the backseat door, and watched as the neon lights cut a streak of red across her pouty lips. I had been slowly preparing for this moment since I first learned of the life growing beneath my heart, storing dish towels and new bedding in the trunk and stocking up on courage. And now the time had come. Holding tight to my daughter, I allowed a boy named Ricky to push my life through tremendous glass door and up a ramp.

I was sure the bellhops and concierge were embarrassed for me. In an effort to excuse my appearance and flustered state, I made jokes about Angela Bassett in that scene from “What’s Love Got To Do With It.” As the words feel from my lips like a nose dive, my heart sank with them as the kinship of our circumstances washed over my shattered soul. I steadied my breath, and contorted my face into a smile. The concierge handed me a small card. Please enjoy a complimentary breakfast. He knew.

Unable to stop myself, profuse ‘thank you’s’ quickly became an incoherent explanation. I’m moving out of my house, I said feebly, shaking my head, shuffling the pieces in my brain, assembling new strings of thought. My lease starts in two days, I continued. Nothing seemed to fit anymore but the truth.

I’m a single mom. Words I had practiced a thousand times. Words that had tickled my breath. Words until now, unspoken. Opening a cabinet from beneath his stand, he flipped the tab on a cold can of beer and passed it my way. He definitely knew. It just happened.

It was rather natural, really. Unnoticeable to the untrained eye. A thousand infinitesimal steps placed me outside the door in my work clothes and slippers watching my breath in the streetlamp of a frigid January night as the weight of a sleeping baby buckled tight into her car seat pulled me.

I had seen him a thousand times. First in my dreams, then in my imagination, and finally one late night. He looked exactly like himself – long dark hair, a cloud of thick smoke lingering in his beard, and kind eyes that wrinkled in their corners like he knew a secret. His drawl was low and steady, and I knew he would whisper sweet secrets in my ear, curling my toes. He stood to the side, allowing me to pass by, and I could feel his eyes on me for a just a moment longer than was polite and I loved the ache of wanting him. In a small town with a big name, it isn’t long before paths cross again, and so one afternoon between shifts, we shook hands across a wobbly table top just blocks from that first glance. He was the first man who ever returned my love. I wanted desperately to keep him.

Our dance was like twirling in my kitchen as a girl. The room spinning fast, chairs blurring with wall, until I crashed into something hard. Dizzy and cross-eyed, I gave the fall no mind as I waited for the fog to pass from my eyes. When the world was straight and calm again, I’d examine my bumped elbow or shin before starting back twirling. Our love was like that. I let him lead me through moves I’d never known, his sturdy body pressed against mine, hands firm on my back guiding me. He knew the music and I followed, gazing into his eyes only as the world blurred and settled over and over and over.

Years passed, and though the music changed its tune, we spun together. Entranced, I whirled about, shedding pieces of myself, until one late night when my bones gave out. I had been dancing on a turned ankle. Tired of revolving, I winced with every step, though I couldn’t find the words. Slow down, I wanted to say, sick from spinning round with him, my ears ringing from the loudness of our life. I spun and twirled and fell to my knees. I sat on the dance floor awhile, catching my breath, searching for my pulse, and it was there that I found my discarded bits. It was there that I found her.

He was what I longed for, he was what I craved. I desired him deeply, from the moment I wrote him into a story or dreamed of his warmth next to me, but he was never mine. See, he belongs to the night. He belongs to loud music and dark corners. He is a lone wolf, mysterious and sharp-toothed. I envied this about him. I envied his confidence and charm and certainty of self. His energy was like lightning, and I longed to bottle it, but I cannot hold it in my hands for it shocks and burns me.

The entire world is perfect. The entire world is a delightful masterpiece of synchronicity. The entire world is a choreographed dance until the moment an ankle turns, or a clock falters. Everything is divine until the instant it is not. This ordinary thought passes in and out each time the world stops. Like the pause between a baby’s breath – the held instant when before they pull in deeply and you find your own breath filling dry lungs, unaware it had left you. The world goes forward like this, catching breath and finding it again. I sat in the small purple room on a fluffy bed gazing out the window into the night. Bright city lights glowed white and blue and green along the horizon, and I caught my breath for the first time in a year. It seemed like a dream – neither bad nor beautiful, simply blurred around the edges and filmy on top.

My German driving teacher was a single mother, too. It works for us, she would say casually, shrugging her shoulders and as if it had been the difference between cable packages. Something about the ease in her voice told me parenting alone was neither tragedy or heroism. I tried to wrap my mind around what was in between, but stumbled over the gospel of it. I only knew she spoke my truth. A man is for me, to love, to have. A mother is for the child.

I wrote tales of her father before I laid my eyes upon him, and I claimed motherhood before it found me. Oh, I loved him. I loved him as a woman loves a man. I loved him as a riverbed loves the water which flows through her. I loved him as the trees love a spring who brings the sun back to warm its aching branches. But I loved her more. And I loved myself more, too. I danced a dance with him for many years, and he didn’t notice when I left the dance floor. He didn’t come running, or play our song. He was the man for me, but I am the mother of her. I am her beginning and end, and she is my blood pumping in a new vessel. She is my heartbeat. Our rhythms follow a unified beat. Honoring this is her birthright. And so, I cracked open that cold beer and drank it fast, allowing the bubbles to settle my dizzy brain. I curled my body around my child’s, and I listened for our song.

It works for us, I said aloud, and I knew it would be true. In that moment, a choice was made. A house was built. An origin story was written.

My child will inherit her father’s charm and sovereignty. She will inherit his records and his bravado. She wears his long lashes and mischievous smile each day, and she will inherit his tenacity. But underneath, she will inherit the poise of a tiny German woman she’s never met. A woman who planted a seed that whispered, Majestic, imperial motherhood is its own ballad, and needs no chorus.

I dance to my own beat, with a round faced girl tied at my heart, because it works for us.