The Clear Day After
It is morning. You lay in the kitchen.
You were not supposed to wake up, but you have.
Metallic drool drips down your chin.
Someone shakes you and then your eyes open;
you see blurred and hazy grey.
She moves your head back and forth
and you want to beg her to stop this
godforsaken movement, but her fingers
are so cold that you can’t open
your mouth comfortably.
“Mrs. Hughes, where are the children?”
and at once you think:
My goodbye should have lasted.
Me a shadow they forget after nightfall.
“Someone find them. They must be upstairs.”
And you feel relieved because they are. Will their room
be cold and full of—what kind of air?
They must have unhinged the mouth of the cave.
You were not supposed to wake up. You were
not supposed to be carried toward the ambulance,
growing more alert, smelling the antiseptic of the van.
You were supposed to be senseless.
How does it feel to once again fail? To have this extra
line of life thrown out to you? To not even
belong in death but to such clarity?
Weeks, maybe months from now,
you know you will be back on the floor
with the baby, washing the toddler’s hair in the tub.
It will be cold out, your fingers
will still type, Ted will still hover over your flat,
peeking in now and again.
They put your stubborn body
into the ambulance and you surrender
as the loser in this game. You turn
your head away and close your eyes to the sun
which shines so bright on the London snow.
Done with her cow-heavy body,
she shows her two babies the daffodils
just beginning to reveal their tips
in the field outside their window.
Her eyes are soft and muted
as the girl just learning to talk
pulls on her mother’s skirt,
as the mother clutches the boy
with his tiny fists.
She lets him slip on her hip a bit
then pulls him up tight.
The day is a rainstorm of diapers and feedings
and laundry, but she moves around
like a finger
swirled in water,
almost a dance.
This is what she is made for:
easing forth these babies so she can sing and feed and hold.
She hums and rocks,
rocks and looks out the window,
looks and coos and ooohs at the startling
burst of yellow beneath the last bit of snow.
The babies watch her. She wrings her
dishtowel and stares back.
Closing her eyes, she feels their weight:
two bags of hanging sand.
Soon, she knows, she may release her grip
and wander shoeless into the fields,
awash with daffodils
her children running after, a long game
of hide and seek.
—Lisa Marie Brodsky, Evansville, WI