Poems & Essays

24 Aug

Exfoliation

Taking Flight No Response

I have been learning the difference
between sorrow and despair,
discussing subtleties with my dog.
She’ll be beside me today,
Mother’s Day, 
for a fourth annual salt chafe
as my armor’s exfoliated.
If only I had a method 
to scrape from inside out.
A neighbor’s bouquet of blooms
wilts as I watch, dinner
invitations are declined.
Each well-meant acknowledgment, 
not from my son, sizzles like
salty tears rubbed into raw skin.
If only they could evaporate,
condense in a cloud and rain
my love on him.

Joan Gerstein, originally from NY, has lived in CA since 1969. A retired educator and psychotherapist, she has been penning poetry since elementary school. For the past 5 years, until the corona virus, Joan taught creative writing to incarcerated veterans.

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24 Aug

When I Tell Strangers I Have Twins

Babyhood One Response

They sigh, shake their heads, say,
 “I don’t think I could do it.” I wonder 
which one they’d sell, as though twins 

was a choice I made knowing my parental
skills beforehand, knowing at conception 
I could breastfeed two babies at one time 

in the middle of my bed, their weight evened
out on a boppy while I held them each like 
a football—stopping in the middle of a feeding 

to change a diaper, while the other, still 
latched on, turned his head to watch me 
wipe his brother clean. Or how I knew 

I could continue when, in the first two 
months, there were nights I only slept 
forty-five minutes between rocking 

and changing and feeding one and then
another back and forth until it blurred 
together into a nightmare thought up 

in a Twilight Zone episode. It’s amazing 
what can be done when babies cry 
continuously. When I went outside 

to push them in their stroller, the leaves 
wouldn’t hold their shape. They fluttered 
with fuzzy edges in a parade of orange 

and red and yellow, the weight of sleep-
lessness a heavy quilt on a cold night—
wrapped round me until I realized I’m not 

asleep but walking and walking and 
praying they wouldn’t wake. I explain 
to those strangers so adamant of their 

inability, that I had little choice, except 
for how I handle the situation and 
sometimes it’s not well. Sometimes 

it’s locking myself away in another room 
until my own crying stops. Other days 
I call my mother, shake my head, and say, 

“If it were just one baby, it would be so 
easy.” She replies, “Oh, but what joy 
the second will bring.” I cry, “I don’t think 

I can do this.” She says, “You already have.”

Dana Salvador’s work has been featured in the Prairie Schooner, descant (forthcoming), North American Review, Literary Mama, Water~Stone Review, Red Rock Review, and North Dakota Quarterly, among others. Additionally, she is the recipient of a Vogelstein Foundation Grant and the recipient of the 2016 Patricia Dobler Poetry Award.

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24 Aug

Ventricular Septal Defect

Babyhood No Response

At twenty weeks, the doctors gave
an ultrasound that discovered a tiny

hole in the baby’s heart. “Small,” 
he said. “May close on its own.

But sometimes they stay open, 
and then surgery’s needed. We’ll see 

at your next appointment.” For one month, 
I carried that information in my chest 

like a jack-in-the-box, unexpectedly popping 
open fear about a valve that might leak 

like a fountain pen. I found myself in traffic 
waiting for the light to change, 

sewing in my mind, taking thread so fine 
it’s sinewy iridescence barely seen 

and stitching the tiny hole shut. Down 
through the growing skin, back up 

catching the soft flap of fresh skin. Up and down, 
using the same delicate tension my grandmother 

taught me to use to create even stitches, 
until I’d sewn the hole shut thousands of times. 

At the clinic, after another ultrasound, the doctor said, 
“Looky here, nothing to worry about.”

Dana Salvador’s work has been featured in the Prairie Schooner, descant (forthcoming), North American Review, Literary Mama, Water~Stone Review, Red Rock Review, and North Dakota Quarterly, among others. Additionally, she is the recipient of a Vogelstein Foundation Grant and the recipient of the 2016 Patricia Dobler Poetry Award.

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24 Aug

Someday You’ll Love Yourself

Taking Flight No Response

—​after Ocean Vuong

Maybe it will happen during a pandemic
when, resources exhausted,
you lock yourself in the bathroom
as your children squall. Look,
you never imagined you’d be a mother,
projected disdain on those duties.
Yet, here you are: braced on a toilet, sequestered.
Be gentle. ​The most beautiful part
will be morning before the children
besiege you. Before they wake, it’s quiet
enough to hear histories. Remember
when your own mother shut your fingers
in the car door. Remember when she tipped
the canoe, and you sank beneath cold
water. Remember the panic. Remember
how you resented her busy life, full
even in your absence. ​The most beautiful
part
​ is that you have forgotten
all of this in order to remember
how these slips were inconsequential
and your mother was everything.
Consider that this poem is about a mother
who locked herself in a bathroom once,
to escape your shrills, but whose voice this is,
reminding you the most beautiful part
is you never once questioned her love, as solid
as the steel she used to lock you out.

Tara Iacobucci is a poet and mother of three living in the Boston area and teaches English at Canton High School. She self-published a young adult fiction novel titled The Trouble with Pretty, and her poetry and prose have appeared in Plymouth State University’s Comp Journal and Centripetal.

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