I can’t leave her
That’s what I said
Us two here, the other two over there
With their priorities, pointed in that direction
But then something changed
Somebody small and beautiful
Who transformed the landscape, my landscape
And I left her alone
Where we once stood together
Where did I go? Nowhere new
But my head was now somewhere else
I had to drop everything for someone
And that someone was no longer her
I called her
To catch up, to salvage something of our old ritual
I had a wedge of time into which I could slot her
We talked of Anne Enright and books and
Our familiar topics
As we talked
I kept an eye on my watch, and the golden dome where I worked
Topped by a goddess, a seer with a torch – and a sword
What you give up
That laughter down the phone line
Erupting, overflowing, sometimes wicked, sometimes silly,
Sometimes a bittersweet tonic in a life that’s been so cruel and unrelenting.
Always: so delicious
What you give up
Those late evening calls, sometimes desperate, sometimes joyful but always, always redolent of
what I consider the true sibling relationship.
Talking to her feels like breathing, I think
As I stand outside the Capitol
Catching my breath
What you give up,
I think, as I total up
What was gained and
What was lost.
Jeanne Bonner is a freelance writer and editor, and a candidate for an M.F.A. in Fiction from Bennington College.
She lives in Atlanta, where until last year she was an NPR station reporter. You can find her on Twitter at @bonnerjeanne.
he leaps from the tree
like a newborn just birthed
and delivered into my arms,
my baby boy
the world into his every breath
and breathes out
blind wisdom and will,
he is fear itself who fears not
the absolute height,
nor the deepest end of the sea,
neither the darkest land,
yet like an infinite beam of hope
that rises and warms:
he stirs the quiet wind chime
because there was no wind,
he whispers the voices of other children
whose laughter are lost in youth,
he unseats my mind just enough
to leave me always fearing–
once again, it begins as it ends,
I will ignore the surfaced side of fear,
and focus on this hazy winter morning,
when my son scurries back on the rocks,
dragging up the tree with him
the cold air, loamy dirt, and brown leaves
that cling to his cozy jacket,
so, I, too, get up and dance–
Lana Bella has had a diverse work of poetry and fiction anthologized, published, and forthcoming with over one hundred journals, including a chapbook with Crisis Chronicles Press (early 2016), Aurorean Poetry, Chiron Review, Contrary Magazine, QLSR (Singapore), elsewhere, and Featured Artist with Quail Bell Magazine, among others. She divides her time between the US and the coastal town of Nha Trang, Vietnam, where she is the wife of a novelist and the mom of two frolicsome imps.
Up before dawn, the house
alive as our younger sons
dance around him.
In pantomimed battle, the thunder
of their explosions rings stark
against the hardwood floor.
They declare victory,
while he falls in a heap
of mock death, only to rise
triumphant and pin them
beneath his six foot frame.
As daybreak erases
the last cover of night,
the heat of a far-away war
rises with the sun.
He sits at the table,
thumbing through papers
he’s checked twice before.
He sighs, stands
and pulls me close
with more force
than ever before, his belly
wracked by inaudible sobs
I have no way to fix.
Sharyl Collin started writing poetry about four years ago. Her poems have appeared in various publications, including Mason’s Road Literary Journal, Wild Goose Poetry Review, *82 Review, The Intentional and Lummox.
It is impossible not to compare my twins. They are fraternal—I can’t even look at them without confronting their differences. James is average height and weight with plump legs and chubby cheeks. He takes after my father and is much browner than the rest of us. Langston is light-skinned like me and my husband, short and skinny, with little wiry chicken legs he likes to tip-toe on in circles around the floor.
Just as immediate as their physical differences, so is the gap in their development, despite the fact that they both came into this world the exact same way: prematurely, at 25 weeks gestation.
For example, recently, James sauntered into my bedroom, his “P,” a pacifier with a stuffed dog attached, dangled from his mouth like a tiny pipe. He popped it out and lectured on the whereabouts of daddy (the bathroom), and on his conclusions regarding identity, about which he declared, “I’m Games. You Mama.” When given an opportunity, I asked, “Do you want eggs for breakfast?” He answered, “Yes” with a nod for added clarity. James, after getting dressed, tossed his “P” back into his crib and toodlersplained some more before settling down with a bowl of scrambled eggs and silently contemplating Doc McStuffins’ most recent diagnosis.
In contrast, Langston padded quietly into the room. His brown face floated along the bed’s edge. We made eye contact and then he loudly exclaimed, “Hi!” Not too long ago, I could not truthfully write the sentence you just read. According to the developmental clinic he visits, he should’ve been able to articulate that word at twelve-months. It’s taken him almost two and a half years. In response to my question about breakfast, Langston acknowledged his hunger with a concise, “eat, eat.” There may have been other noises from him, maybe even words spoken, but they were less articulate, less frequent, and less varied than his brother.
In the preemie world, age is a conundrum of measurements. Doctors and professionals often use a preemie’s corrected age, their age based on their due date, to determine whether or not they are delayed. My boys’ corrected age is 26 months. Their actual age is 30 months. James is developmentally on par with his actual age. Langston is delayed, at least six months or more behind his corrected age.
My emotions mirror their polarity, yet there is always an underpinning of guilt that never goes away. I feel blessed to have a son exceeding all expectations, especially considering his traumatic birth. I bleed pride every time James announces he is happy or uses his spoon correctly eating yogurt with hardly any mess or makes up songs about cars on the road in full and eloquent sentences. And then I’m immediately paralyzed with guilt, as if I am betraying my other son or excluding him from this joy because these are things Langston doesn’t do.
It is even hard for me to rejoice in Langston’s progress. Recently, he’s been humming the melody to the ABC song. In fact, he can recognize and speak several letters and numbers when shown flash cards and match colors and shapes, even if he doesn’t say the words for them. His speech therapist got him to “oink” when showing him a picture of a pig. And he now says “bye” when he or other people leave. This is amazing progress for him.
But if I relax and allow myself to be happy in his achievements, how do I avoid complacency? These tiny increments of growth, when matched shoulder to shoulder with his brother, still don’t put them on the same level. And I cannot rest until there is no space left between them. Every minute is a teachable moment, a moment to reinforce his speech skills or to help him hold a pencil or to give him the extra care I don’t need to give to his brother, although I know James wants that care too. And again, I cannot avoid feeling guilty because it is not only my attention being pulled in separate directions, but it is my mind, it is my heart that is torn raw and straight down the middle every single time I look at them.
Although twins, they are just brothers and they will never be the same. And I may never stop comparing them. But, this morning as they ate breakfast, I stared at them, searching for a link other than their DNA. They both love being chased and hate having their diapers changed. Both have abnormally stinky feet and think I’m hilarious when I scream over just how stinky those feet are. They both love books and being read to. Each night before bed we ask them, “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, what do you see?” And, under the large board book in our hands, they point at the big brown bear on the page in front of them and roar in unison.
Tyrese L. Coleman is a writer, wife, mother, a lawyer, and a master’s student in the Writing Program at Johns Hopkins University. Her writing has appeared in PANK Magazine Online, mater mea, a website that celebrates black women at the intersection of career and motherhood, and elsewhere. You can reach her at tyresecoleman.com or follow her on Twitter @tylachelleco.