“A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children.” (Matthew 2:18)
Morning came early that day, gave me extra moments with you. Low voices and a donkey’s chuffing woke me before the rooster crowed, so I watched you sleep until dawn mottled the walls and sunbeams played peekaboo on the floor. Your mischievous morning smile promised you’d keep me busy that day.
I nursed you, changed you, kissed your pudgy cheeks as butterfly lashes tickled my nose. “Amma!” you giggled and toddled to the window. “Up. Up!” Insistent, arms raised high. I lifted you to see the busy street, then opened the door to let out the night air and welcome the morning.
If only I had left it closed, there might have been more warning.
A fresh breeze ruffled dark curls as you settled down to play in the dirt. Two-year molars pushed against sore gums, so you gnawed on a dried fig; its orange-brown juice bubbled at the corners of your mouth, ran down your chin. As I set down my mending to get you another, I scowled at the column riding in. But my silent curse turned to laughter at your gleeful claps, your raucous rocking as you pointed at Roman ponies you longed to pet.
A joy-filled whinny died as it passed your lips. The muffled sound and protruding spear tip were simultaneous, and the legionnaires moved to the next door without so much as a glance at you, at me, at the rest of Ramah’s mothers while our sons were slaughtered. How? Can we ever be comforted?
One Bethlehem boy escaped that day of death, only to face another. His mother’s mourning fled stealthily to Egypt, but grief delayed is still grief.
So he grew to manhood, the same age my boy would be. I met him once, heard him teach the impossible: “Love your enemies.” I don’t see how I can.
I watched from shadows the day he faced another, crueler death. I heard him plead, “Forgive them” as nails bit flesh and sinew, felt satisfaction as he and his mother drank the bitter cup. But when the blade that stole my baby son pierced his lifeless side, my own heart was again run through. I wailed and mourned and refused to be comforted.
I, Rachel, sought his mother, Mary, and we two wept together,
Ramah’s daughters lamenting for our children.
Amy Nemecek lives in northern Michigan with her husband, son, and two cats. Her work has appeared in The Windhover, Snapdragon,The 3288 Review, Ancient Paths, Topology, and Indiana Voice Journal. When Amy isn’t working with words, she enjoys long walks along country roads.
Of Karomia gigas, there are only six trees
Tanzanians keep a watch on their seeds
and guard the breeze
My backyard has two peach and plum plants
Trunks thinner than my wrists
Only last spring, they began to bloom
with my daughters’ watercolor brush strokes
but my body is here on a lease
The man who hummed held his baby
like an apple tree carries hearts on its branch tips
Past the engines that paused fire in the school parking lot
He moved with an afternoon lullaby on his lips
On the radio, a man says thirty words
about a three-year-old
girl who never stood by that tree
a hundred feet behind the house that dawn
—of that man who lugged her across the ocean
and filled her lungs with milk
I don’t know the names of 60,000 trees
Sidhhartha shed suffering under Bodhi’s shadow
I am seven seas away from Peepal’s leaves
Where should I close my eyes and rest my knees?
The man returns with another child in his shade
But the same song for the sleeping blossom
They leave winter’s parade
My hand out the waiting window
reaches for my daughters’ faces
brings back spring and silk
Anuja Ghimire is a native of Kathmandu, Nepal. A Best of the Net and Pushcart-nominee, she is a repeat contributor to MAW. Most recently, her work appeared in Rise Up Review, Silver Birch Press, Dovetales: An International Anthology of World Peace, and The Good Men Project. She can be found on the Internet @NepaliPoet.
is placed placid on the polish
of a wood piano.
It has spent eleven months
wrapped in a berry-red napkin
at the tinsel filled bottom of a plastic bin
marked “Holiday,” stuck in last year’s
tree needles, between a glass menorah
and a cracked ornament.
It stands on leaden legs,
until one evening my daughter
gives him life, lifts him to fly through
flickering lights and cinnamoned air,
landing him so he can help pull
a sleigh through cotton-ball snow.
The next morning, she carries
him in her palm, leans him
over the rim of her half-eaten bowl
of frosted cereal, so he can drink
deep from the sweet, milky lake,
then lets him graze in the carpet yard
of Barbie’s Malibu dream house.
That afternoon, she gallops
the reindeer over to visit
a gingerbread castle, peppermint
candied, dotted with jellies, constructed
near a pile of mandarin orange rinds
and a glossy beach shell.
She leans her ear near
his eyeless head, breathes in citrus
as she hears him sigh, sees the world
reflected in his shiny body.
Alexandra Umlas lives in Huntington Beach, CA and is currently an MFA student in the Poetry program at California State University, Long Beach.
The floors were mopped, the freezer stocked with frozen prepped meals to make the postpartum period easier. I soaked menstrual pads in witch hazel and lavender oil and froze them, too. Time had also frozen, along with the sidewalk. It was supposed to reach -7 on her due date tomorrow night. I wanted to labor in a snowstorm, I wanted a fascinating story. I wanted it to happen already.
Pain is strength, I would tell myself to tell myself when the time came. Preparation is the key to a successful birth (marriage, life) and my to-do list was crossed off a week ago.
Six days of waiting: timing every movement to the shudder of the candle wick, the waning moon growing outside but meaning nothing magical. I wished I believed in the spiritual realm, but all I can claim is superstition.
Ritual is a form of control. Meditation and muscle contractions. I was not scared. I took a bath every day like my mother said to. I was pushed out of her with ease; she does not have a reliable memory. There were things I wanted to tell her when I was born, but I didn’t have the words yet. I wonder if my daughter can find them in my womb.
She is comfortable in the dark. I folded all of the cloth diapers and set aside the outfit to dress her in on the way home from the hospital that matches her father’s. She does not belong to me, nor time. A resurrected morning and waves of impatience will bring her earth side. Where I can no longer keep her safe, or warm. Where from the moment of her first breath, she is no longer mine. The tree outside has also lost its leaves in last week’s snow storm, but the snow never stuck.
My mother lies about my complicated birth. She doesn’t remember the truths in her past lives. She doesn’t understand the strength in pain.
After tomorrow, everything will be different. We can recall where we came from, but not how it felt while we were there.
Six days of waiting: I fear she will be born on Christmas. She wants her own day. She’s crossed all her requests off a list I dreamed of when I fell asleep in the bathtub. The water is never as warm as it seems, I warn her. But she knows this already. She lets me count to four three times in a panicked pattern; she reminds me how powerless I have already become. How mothers are the slaves of circumstance, rudderless in an endeavor guided only by love. Let go, she reminds me.
The snow started to fall a day early.
Born and raised in Southern California, Erica Hoffmeister earned her MA in English and MFA in Creative Writing from Chapman University’s dual degree program in 2015. She has work published or forthcoming in So To Speak, Split Lip Magazine, Rat’s Ass Review, Shark Reef, and Literary Mama, among others. She was also a runner-up for the Janet B. McCabe Poetry Prize in 2016, and received an honorable mention for the Lorian Hemingway Award for Short Fiction in 2014. She currently lives in Denver with her husband and daughter, Scout Séverine, where she writes, teaches, and perpetually misses home—wherever that feels like at the time.