chapter ten

on those spring mornings, as my wideness looms large, and I no longer care for the bother of shoes, with their tedious clasps and ties, I will waddle tip-toed to the garden’s edge and stare at the collection of haphazard near-creatures there. this overgrown and well-worn plot will have become a solace to my heart, which yearns to race and wander about, and which has chosen to remain steady and fixed here in this world with you. it is not abandon, but discovery which prompts my heart to rove, and so I seek and yearn for spots no guide has been. and yet, not so many moons ago I unearthed the heart of a man who is the other parts of my soul. in him is the stillness I fear and still cling to, and so I remain in body as my mind drifts at sea. 

beyond the hedge, honeysuckle and magnolia kiss the air and leave a stain which bleeds into my daydreaming easily. a kettle calls from the stove and, heaving myself from the stoop, I’ll make moves to quiet the steaming. my favorite cup is a speckled ivory, and it stands alone in sharp distinction amongst the collection of blues and greens he brought in a box one humid afternoon. rearranging the teas like tetris pieces in search of a ginger which feels like home, I will dig into the corners of my guts to recall that first day. 

his grey shirt was soaked in the armpits from sweating and I squeezed him tight there as he came to the door, absorbing his scent into my palms to save for later. we snuck kisses as the girls tucked onto the couch. I followed him across hardwood floors. my stomach turned as he snuck a spot for his razor beside the unopened hotel soap I took from the California bed and breakfast, and slid books into the shelf according to color. his heart and joy was on display, and twice while the girls napped he stole his hand into mine for awhile, rubbing his thumb into my palm and watching me close.

by now the tea was fully steeped and the sky brightening to a yellow, his favorite time of day. I will know without looking the sneaking steps are his, and he has crept to find me here.  

your journal has been still, he’ll whisper in the summer dawning, holding my restless heart still knowingly. the smell the sleep and grease lingers on his freckled skin, and we pause between loving offerings so as not to stir the beings in the bed. 

in the space between his breath and mine is the echo of a thousand stars and yet he can reach beyond the infinite to find my spirit and essence, silently sliding into the quietest bits of me to take hold and fill space. and so it is, against countertops as mugs grow cold, enveloped on all sides by the life we’ve chosen and given into so fully, that he finds the center of me and slides into it. 

yes, I say, with fingers between my folds and rolls. I long to cry out that I cannot find the words and tell him of the transfixing, paralyzing glory of being the woman who fills his gaps. I crave the strength to push him out of me so I may more easily turn into him, no longer choking on the sobs which live in my throat, and scream that I was lost for years and years on a slab of rock in a violent sea which one day dried. and so I walked to the earth, a girl-child tied to my back, until I found a land hospitable to creatures such as us. and I lingered there awhile, making do and taking care, until one day he turned from hopeful mirage to realized being. and it was in that hour I stopped wandering with my feet, and build a universe in blue-grey eyes just mine for the exploring. 

yes, my journal has been still for I tell my tales out loud now to a heart who hears every pitch and tone. I say nothing, knowing he senses wholeness in exhales. he coyly sucks his forefinger and backs away to answer the calling of sweet girls, and I turn to sip the cold tea of my dreams.

chapter eight

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the setting sun hovers on the lips of the horizon, teasing a kiss of darkness. the grey clouds fill the sky, and their undulating cover coats a stillness across the windowsill. I adore these moments between happenings, when the world might become something new with my eyes as witness, and I have taken to sitting at the window, perched in anticipation of what might be. it occurs to me now, folded as I am into this spot, awaiting some fresh alteration and not-so-patiently cataloging every corner of house and sky and self for signs of newness, that perhaps it's the suspension of time which captivates me so for I am quite held by the quiet of this moment. in it, I find my heart beating a rhythm which chants your name, a call and response of love only a mother might know, and I sense your eyes on me from the kitchen. turning towards your presence, I break the stillness and with it your gaze, until we are both quite fixed on the other. you'll say something sweet about my hair, and the curling tendrils which bounce at the nape of my neck, and come to rest a hand just inside the collar of my shirt as you've done since your first breath. I'll whisper of the jasmine just out of reach and the evening's planned roast and the unlikely warmth of the day, and I'll dare you to stay put in my embrace an instant longer. I'll dare you in the pocket of my soul where my obsession with your existence lives, and you'll feel it because you were born there, and you'll linger. and then the mischievous cat will knock about pans or topple the laundry basket or otherwise disturb the loaded silence, and I'll watch as you wander off to reconcile the disaster. I'll find a cloud resembling nothing at all and stare as it shifts and hovers and remind myself that each moment is an in between, joyously bridging occurrences until the string is heavy with moments, and I'll listen as you counsel the cat's feelings and right the upset room and call out for me. I'll know the moment isn't over but beginning, and the line dividing these two worlds is delicate and faint. standing, I'll sink into the honey-soaked loveliness of almost. 

shiboru

all the loves within me bury their heads at the sound of his key in the door. in the waiting time, they have danced in the foldings of my guts, hunkering beneath a fort of memory and longing, telling stories in the dark and lulling me into the forgotten soft spots of sour love. beams of sunlight have cut across the window panes, sparking dust into firestorms, and cutting bright angles across our current corners.

I was often isolated in love before him, and learned the cracks of the side streets well, walking them as I did every day with you hitched on my hip. your words were meant for birds and leaves and the heavens then, and so we were both content for you to babble and me to daydream about lives beyond the solitude of those instants. and then a pipe burst somewhere deep within the frame foundation of that life, and a flooding overtook my mind, and our escape was necessary.

and now, in this new house of love, I pace the hardwood floors and attend to another kind of waiting. 

without you, absence haunts me, a still specter above my doorframe hawkishly whispering and filling otherwise silent moments. I go about the paces of a day and yes, there is some solace in the business of preparing for your return. how tender to halt a heart and keep it encased in a sort of kept box, patiently thumping a tattoo calling the troops home. these days are a kaleidoscope of magnificence: my belly hangs low and heavy as a raindrop pulling at the leaves, and I can feel the edges of my hips curling back to withstand the spreading life. I step over wooden trains and bejeweled tiaras and discarded socks, navigating the treacherous path with the familiarity of motherhood's nighttime patrols. I sip the lukewarm tea, still sweet from honey settled at the bottom of a cup he brought back from his last trip to the city. and I measure the grams of hope which have stacked along the counters of drab and dingy starter homes in the journey to today's shared space. 

I suppose there will always be a coating of melancholy about my heart, the cracks of heartache now stitched with gold plated yarn. and perhaps I won't pass a day without wondering what might have been, and yet it's certain I'll never know a night of desiring anything other than what is. and so, between the hour your joined hands tiptoed through the door until this orange-scented moment of your return, I let the light play its tricks as the sun sets around our embrace.

chapter seven

on occasion, he wakes before our our side of the bed, and gives a half-flinch which signals his spirit's return from dreaming on a distant star. for an instant, his grip tightens, and I am treated to the slow trace of his finger between the folded, thick skin at my curved waist. in the earliest days of new and fascinated love, I knew this meant he was preparing to come for me, and I would press my eyes closed tight, burying my face a bit to keep from giggling. and he liked this best, pressing into my back, his thick hands pinching at my roundest bits. the air would go quiet around us as we ensured the house slept soundly, and my heart would race to be desired by so fine a man, and softly he would begin. I think of this now as he slips silently away, tucking tight the blankets on his edge to keep the warmth in, and pads slowly down the hall, a tabby cat trailing behind.

I know he's going to the quiet room.

it was here we first made love. on a cold, dark evening in March when the gusts whip through, distorting memories of daylight's yellow warmth, and mocking bare limbs, forcing hesitant hands to interlock, he walked me to the door. and as I stood at the threshold, caught in the kitchen's glow and my throat's held words, he took a step forward and kept my gaze as the door shut. soon, the lanky babysitter was paid and waving from the driveway, her spindly arms full of schoolbooks and her father's idling engine churning a farewell. I feigned making tea, certain a move in any direction would sent my feet melting into my puddle of a heart there on the floor, and I fell easily into his arms when his agile frame leapt for me, the anticipation of night wooing us both. lips locked, we navigated slowly around door frames, stepping over discarded pieces of a wooden train set, our own track laid, until we sunk into the plushness of the moon and all its conjurings.

it was here he slept a night when your coughing reinstated hourly attention, and the lurking sunrise loomed heavy on his mind.

it was here that he wrapped presents late into the evening as snow buried the rose bushes out back. they bloomed big that next year, and you whispered to him the snow had been magic. he snipped one for you instantly before darting off to the shed, walking backwards in the slinky way that drips of confident innocence.

it is here I hung the thrifted frames and torn prints saved from summer sales, and where he shook his head ever so slightly as I marveled at their beauty, and here that I will find him tinkering in the sunlight, his dirtied hands taunting my cushions. 

my belly is wide and heavy, the life inside burrowing deep and building a hammock between my hips. careful not to disturb you, I roll with effort to face the window and listen for the tings of his working. I let my feet dangle at the bed's edge for a moment, pausing to drink his bedside table teeming with small notes, coins, and seemingly useless screws. tucked between the pages of his pocket-size journal is the peeking folded edge of a pink paper - a love letter I wrote him last fall while he worked in the city. there is a delicate dance to standing when bellies grow round as melons, and I'm precious about timing as I take the plunge and guide myself upwards. looking back to see your eyes flutter and foot stretch is the keenest sweetness, and has become the one unwavering routine of these undulating months.

I like the feel of the floorboards in the morning, as if coated by night's magic, and patiently awaiting our return. the dust seems aglow in pockets of air where the sun has taken root, kissing each speck softly and setting the path toward his side aflame. the whisper of turning tools opens the day, and I have come to find solace in the way he stays fixated on his precise business all while I edge my wideness past. the cushion on the window seat holds a stain from last week's berry fiasco, and I have a mind to turn it over, though I wouldn't know who for. I watched the trees for s sign of breeze, a simple telling of the day's expectations, and feel a burning in my cheeks. 

somehow he does this: tells of his gaze before I find it, and I blush when our eyes meet. he carries no rag to wipe the oil from his palms, and I do not mind for I was his work once. a small, dusty thing, buried beneath the unwound parts, and he salvaged me, polishing my casing, greasing the bent coils of my insides, and finding my rhythm. he set my time, and now his divine lips are on mine, breathing my breath, and snatching the space from between our morning stories. 

I like the way he leaves kisses unfinished as he turns to listen for the tune of your existence, his strong hand about my neck, long finger tracing circles in the curved ditch behind my earlobe. the sliding sound of toes on the steps brings a twinkle to his eyes, and I'll forget now about the blackened mark on my skin until bath time later. my belly will stick out above the water, and you'll pile suds atop of stretching skin. pouring warm bubbles through your curls, I'll listen as you tell me of the banana pancakes he made, flipping them almost to the ceiling. you will count the slayed dragons, and steps marched, and words read, and you'll grow quiet, placing an ear to my navel and closing your eyes, listening for life, only to hear his laughter from the yard.

there is an unspoken romance to these days, and I will crawl into bed that evening content and bubbly with the knowledge that to stitch together hearts with golden string, mending them into new shapes, is the truest work of second-chance lovers. that you are a witness to new beginnings will fortify your soul in ways I never could have on my own, and our collective womanhood will be the better for having given into the temptation to believe our hands are worth holding, our tears worth time, our skin worth caressing, and our homes worth filling with joy.

por sienpre

you'll asked me how I knew, and I never have, and those are words that haunt me in a place both sacred and entirely exposed. I often wonder if other women are certain of their steps. if there's some switch that flips, like a gas tank, or a carousel ride coming to a close. perhaps they hear a song I've tuned out, or a warning beetle crawling about beneath their floorboards, and so they can be certain that it is simply over. 

I don't suppose I knew it began. I woke up in the thick of it, and snuck, crept about the space which housed it, and tiptoed quietly so as not to disturb the sleeping giant in the next room - my fear that it might disappear from my grasp. and so I shushed my heart and clasped my hands tight to keep from screaming, and remained, until I found myself standing on the other side of love. from across the street, the bridge, the track from love I could see its edges clearly and this misshapen thing was not my own.

see, you'll ask me how I knew, and I will have nothing but silence to offer, for I didn't know, and that was enough. or not. oh, child, I craved certainty. not knowing became the reason. questioning love is a dangerous, dark burrow in which to live, and I could no longer guess at forever. 

 

 

chapter six

he has a tooth which sits a bit crooked and presses against his lip as he smiles, creating a hill of skin. I don't remember our first kiss, except it was in a hallway, tucked out of the way of wondering, wandering eyes, and I traced my tongue over that delicious imperfection with the desire and precision of any explorer. in bed now, years later, his sleeping lips are pursed a bit, and the presence of the tooth is buried beneath dreaming, below silence, obscured by his present peacefulness.

I rarely wake before you, having spent a seeming lifetime lulling you into another land, and finding myself quite alert in the midnight hours thereafter. he changed our rhythm, and now, in the raging, riotous quiet of dawn, I find us tucked and curled, protected and covered, just so. it goes you, then me & the belly, and then him. 

I can hear it in your breath - the moment between sleeping and waking - and it must be the way a priest knows a confession is complete, or how a teacher can feel whispering, or when actors senses to speak, for there is a sudden instant when the air is sucked entirely out of this space and I am acutely aware of my own mortality. that's the breath that signals you have come back to me, returned to me like a specter, or a dream, or a thought lost in the action of existing. I hold my bubbling hope in my hands for a single second, preparing for your kaleidoscope eyes to open and make me whole, bring me real quick and certain to this moment. 

'Mama,' is your cued coo, and you lift your head onto my pillow, crawling fingers across my neck and patting my breasts and coming to rest on my belly. you find a way to slip beneath the roundness in a way that never encroaches, but holds like only someday-women know how, and you talk of pancakes and whisper to 'your girl' and tell me of your dreams.

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'I saw a dragon with a purple crown. he had a hurt leg with a wrap around it and was so tired. and so we went swimming in the ocean because salt water is medicine for dragons. you called me from the beach and your belly was so, so big, mama, and the baby was knocking from space. and you had avocado, and he flew me like an airplane. and then I woke up.'

I'll probably cry. I often do, but this once the cause will be a known thing, a lingering, secret thing that mamas hold quiet: I never thought I would be loved again and filled with promise of life and seen as fully flawed and still beautiful and whispered to in cacophonous rooms and given flowers which aren't my favorite, but are the first choice of the child who came before from a love grown sour and wrinkled, and who now sees manhood in the eyes of a second, unafraid, unwavering other. and mamas will not say these things for even the biggest small girls, ones who count to 100 and know all the planets and can make banana bread and love lilacs and need only six bandaids each weekend, are quite too fresh to be reminded of otherworldly heartache. so I stay quiet about the hope which lives beyond that until I find the words. maybe when the baby comes or when you're married or when our summer seedlings sprout or the first frost or at nearby a cemetery or following the completion of your inagural chapter book. some moment will be right and clear and lacking entirely of anything else to say but the honest truth: I was content to stay us two forever, but thank you for allowing us to be more.

he always wakes to my crying, like a signal, though you've long since wiped the actual tears. we are turned into one another like a heart, or a growing bud, but he never hesitates to come up and over the width of us, effortlessly lifting you above my epic, heavy roundness, and expertly nestling you between our frames. and you curl a bit of hair behind his ear, and your grown assuredness makes him smile, and you touch that crooked tooth, and he kisses your finger, and you sit up to yell at the cat who has batted the door open. 

like that, you bolt up and bound out of the room to find the windowsill where your first bud is finding roots, and stretching into its life, and you leave us - me, and the man who resuscitated this desirous, begging soul. and now in the bright sunlight of togetherness I find I am some version of a dream you told me; about dragons and pancakes, yes, but more so about journeys and love and the kind things seeking hearts long to tell one another. and he smiles that smile and runs a finger between the folds of skin on my back where it curves just so and you are calling from the front room and there's laundry to be done and still, with the still passion of equal longing, he kisses me, pulling a plastic sword from beneath the pillows, and charging out to battle dragons.

I probably cry again here, thinking of how it might of been, and finding myself entirely, unwaveringly enamored with what is.