Love Works Like This

with thanks to author, Lauren Slater

Turns out those were my hands
Laying on my face as tears and a toddler tirade
Stream into my ears
“No nap. Want no nap”!
Laying fetal shaped, body held only by the bedroom floor,  
I notice: I am breathing

Mothering on, one eye slides open
And I crawl up the stairs for an ice pack
Then back down to the bed, with words:
“mama got hurt. lay with me please.”
seconds pass, maybe a full thirty of them
and precious dirty fingers lift the ice pack’s edge:
“book please mama”
so the ice pack moves to my forehead,
and I engage my tear-soaked voice, 
Intoning “sleepyhead, sleepyhead, good night, good night my sleepyhead”
For the millionth time in human history

And sweet relief
As my boy’s head sinks into my shoulder,
His exhale three seconds long,
then four
so finally I can move
the ice pack back to my aching eyebrow,
throbbing nose, good lord
did I break my nose - my face is puffing with blood to cushion itself
and I stare up until
my own exhale stretches,
from two seconds to three,
then four,
and finally breath moves deeply enough to raise and lower my stomach

How did the wall get in my way?
And how did my head get full of faulty brain cells
that sometimes meet up, sometimes miss
and then I miss out,
like the night of her first school play
Did it happen in utero? Alongside these ten perfect tiny fingers and ten tiny toes?

Why me? Did I pass it on?

Breathing helps, pause
What is proprioception?
Learned body awareness of all animals
Or, quote “the body's sense of where it is in space” unquote
A sense I lose when my synapses miss each other

It appears this happens to others with depression too,
and it appears I slammed my only face into a door jam
When I bent for that animal “stuffy” so dearly needed for nap,
I struggled to straighten
So wrenched my torso upright and
The smash was so sudden, so strong
That I fell to the floor in the dark
And the doctor diagnosed a light concussion

This proprioception thing is what we mamas teach
with every “watch out”
“say excuse me” and
“please make room” in hallways and doorways
doorways like the one into our bedroom –
where I taught something else with my bloody nose
and black eye that hurt for over a month,
somedays, today
love works like this:
nap first,
concussion second.

—Tonya McKenna Trabant, Deerbrook, WI