Poems & Essays

11 Mar

Sleeping Through the Night

General/Column No Response

At eight weeks, I pulled you from evening breast,
translucent trickle lingering near your soft-petal mouth,
head lolling at my elbow, that little scowl
that marks your forehead now already crowning
smooth, unchallenged skin.
You did not protest, and I studied you,
knowing that next morning you would go
the way of bottles in Mama Nixon’s babe care factory
all day long.

First time you slept through night, I rolled at 6:15,
screamed bloody what when breasts like bricks
and full to bursting, announced you missed your 3 a.m.
So sore I could not touch these motherbreast weapons,
I was afraid to bring you near. Your father paced
for half an hour while I coaxed the excess forth,
your wail to wake neighbor, your tears to wake the man.

You were adolescent contradiction in a Sunday dress,
lace chasing lines over your someday promises,
slouched low in your seat, legs a cowboy straddle,
too cool to regurgitate Bible tale, motto, memory verse.
I wished myself Grandma-wise enough to stroll over,
stand on your foot to make you sit up straight,
scissor those limber runner’s legs quickly closed

Today you call. I do not see the scowl but hear it,
the echo of unsatisfied rumbling through silent phone
and wish to pull you close, out of your lover’s arms,
touch the corner of your hungry mouth, make you drink.
Right breast: How you can’t teach a man to pull his weight.
Left breast: How to realize you are much more.
Right breast: How to drag his lying ass to AA.
Left breast: How to walk away.

But there you are, child who parted waters, waning thin
in morning sun, calling to ask, but not to listen.
It is far past feeding time, my breasts engorged with
mother milk outgrown. I am not afraid to wake up painfully.
I am so afraid for you I cannot bear to go to sleep.


Rose Smith’s work has appeared in Naugatuck River Review, The Examined Life Journal, Mom Egg Review, The Pedestal Magazine, Pavement Saw, Boston Literary Magazine, Chiron Reviw and other journals and anthologies, including Mourning Sickness: Stories and Poems about Miscarriage, Stillbirth, and Infant Loss. She is author of Shooting the Strays (Pavement Saw Press, 2003) and A Woman You Know (Pudding House Publications, 2005), co-editor of Cap City Poets: Columbus and Central Ohio’s Best Known, Read, and Requested Poets (Pudding House Publications, 2008). She is a Senior Editor with Pudding Magazine and a Cave Canem Fellow.

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