Just a little in my notebook today
To chip away at the block, I promise
Pen to paper – a prayer in the silence
Though not always calming, not always kind
Just a little today, a trickle not
A tidal wave to pummel, to engulf
Life’s work made so much smaller, narrower
Out of focus, unrecognizable
Just a little, simple lessons for some
Today, a how-to guide to making friends
“Come with me,” I plead. “Stay with me awhile.”
Outside of yourself it’s safe, love surrounds
Just a little today, I’ll think instead
Of how he held my gaze, and that shy smile.
Suzanne Samuels is currently working on a historical novel, The Orphans’ Wheel, set in Sicily and New York City at the turn of the twentieth century. Her essays, stories and poetry have appeared in Snapdragon, With Painted Words, and Cyclamens and Swords, as well as other journals. Her work can be found at suzannesamuels.wordpress.com.
We stepped outside, the grocery store’s glass doors parting to a stage of early spring after a harsh Minnesota winter. My son rode in a baby carrier strapped to my chest, sunlight warming the pudgy cheeks that had been protected for his first months by a baby blanket over his car seat. Above the rows of cars, the sky expanded like a child’s picture: bright blue crayons dotted with puffy white clouds, cartoon-like in their perfection.
“Now we are walk-ing out-side!” I whispered, carefully enunciating each syllable. We spent our days together, and I narrated everything. It was all a first for him, which made it all an adventure.
“Sky!” I pointed upward. “See the blue sky?” He wiggled his chubby legs, rocking us both like a fit of giggles. He might not have understood my words, but his excitement told me he understood something deeper. “And those are clouds! See the white clouds?”
Before us, the blue horizon stretched as far as I could see, as though connecting the past to the future. I squinted my eyes in the bright sunlight, wanting to take in the beauty, to freeze the moment like so many with him for all eternity. In the distance, on the soft curve of a cloud, I spotted a memory.
I’m a young girl, my back against a warm flannel picnic blanket, gazing at puffy white clouds that form pictures. My mom sits beside me, her legs tucked to the side, humming softly as she tends to our red-and-white cooler. A Dorothy Hamill wedge frames her pretty heart-shaped face and youthful freckles. “You have such an active imagination!” she turns toward me and smiles, her hazel eyes twinkling in delight at the cloud image I’ve presented her. I close my eyes for a moment and bask in her warmth, as though she were the sun, before searching for the next picture that will tickle her.
Where had we been? What had I seen in those clouds? I couldn’t remember now, from the vantage of my early 30s. It was such a small memory anyway, like a dew drop falling from a tree. And yet the feeling had stayed with me, rising this spring day as though it were the sun warming me.
My gaze dropped back down to the rows of cars before us. We had an early childhood class to get to, and some nursing to take care of. My son didn’t know that my mom had just died after a long battle with cancer. He didn’t know that I lost her too soon, and that he would never get to know her. He wouldn’t even remember these little moments of our early days together — every one of them as precious to me as though they were the air I breathed. But I knew that even when he was old and I was no longer with him, his heart would always remember.
“See the blue sky?” I leaned forward and kissed the top of his downy head.
“Isn’t it beautiful?” I whispered.
Caryn Mohr is the Social Media Editor for Literary Mama. She was named a finalist in the 2015-16 Loft Literary Center Mentor Series in Poetry and Creative Prose, was a participant in the spring 2015 session of the Association of Writers and Writing Programs’ Writer to Writer mentorship program, and frequently takes creative nonfiction courses at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis. Caryn has a B.A. in Journalism and an M.A. in Public Affairs from the University of Minnesota. She lives in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, with her husband and two sons (ages 9 and 11), and can be found on Twitter @carmohr.
will include a red spot on your infant’s cheek. Smaller than a penny, smaller than a dime, smaller than the smallest toenail, but you will see it. It will be shaped like a gun turned one way, the V of a lazily drawn bird the other way.
The doctor will ask if he has had a fever.
No, he has not.
She will ask if his lymph nodes have seemed swollen and red.
No, they have not.
She will ask Then why do you think he has cat scratch fever? You don’t know. You point at the gun-shaped spot, but by now it is smaller than the smallest toenail of a pigeon.
She will tell you he is fine.
She will tell you his spot will go away.
She will tell you to stop nursing him at night, because he is a big baby, and he does not need to nurse at night. He could run into dental problems if he keeps nursing at night.
Aha! You will say. There WAS something!
Renee Beauregard Lute is a graduate of the MFA program at Hamline University in St. Paul, and her work has been published in a number of literary journals and magazines, including Bellevue Literary Review, Mamalode, and Literary Mama.
The clothes pile around me. The dishes pile up in the sink, and I’m pulling bits of malt-o-meal from my braids. The only other person I see all day is the mailman who turns from the window while he quickly fills the slot. Perhaps he is afraid to see a star of flesh when the baby looses the nipple from her cat-like mouth. I long to see his face, to see him curious as to who lives in this blue house with the gingerbread trim, but in this storybook town, gingerbread houses decorate the hillsides like Christmas bulbs in December.
Awake most of the night, near sleep much of the day, I have become a zombie. I am dazed and numb, not quite craving flesh for food, though my body has become food. My daughter nurses around the clock. She takes cat-naps through out the day and even then I am afraid to relinquish my hold on her tiny body. What if I leave the room and she wakes alone and frightened or is stolen away by the Goblin King? I hold her in the rocking chair all day, holding my bladder for hours.
When I hear the heavy clunk of my husband’s boots on the porch, I don’t know whether I want to run toward him or run away, so I sit still and hold the baby. I pretend not to hear when he asks about my day. What can I say that he can understand when mine is the language of gurgles and coos? So I let him rock the baby, while I sleepwalk into the kitchen to open cans of beans and probably burn the vegetables.
Sleep has become the Holy Grail. I wish for it, long for it, pray for it, imagine it, almost find it, and still it eludes me. When sleep finally comes, there is no rest, only shards of REM swirling like a kaleidoscope. Dreams are a B horror film reeling with black and white flickers on the walls of my mind, disconnected images of drowning babies, missing children, and burning buildings. Dreams are the mirrors and hallways of a Fun House at a midnight carnival with bins overflowing with button-eyed dolls that pretend to be my baby. I wake exhausted, covered in sweat and sticky milk, surprised to find her in the bed beside me sleeping like an angel. I lean my head close to her chest and listen for her breath. I almost rise to find a mirror for her to fog, when a jerk of her arm reassures me, for the moment.
My mind tries to convince my body that she is a separate being, but I am hungry, cold, and tired. I cry when she cries. When I reach for her across the darkness of the bed, she burrows against me, belly to belly and I can almost feel the ghost of her umbilical cord pulse. I encircle her in my arms, the rib cage protecting the heart, the dragon hoarding her treasure, sleeping with one eye open.
Bethany Fitzpatrick has a MA from the University of Arkansas where she studied English literature, creative writing, and ecofeminism. She has had poems published in Exposure, Babel fruit,Cliterature, and Apeiron Review. She has published nonfiction online for Mothering magazine. She lives in northwest Arkansas where she teaches English Composition and raises two lovely, spirited children with her husband.