Trace

Grief

Ian Demsky

Already the taxi of your esteem
salmoning back into traffic,
forgotten item on the floorboard
like an enormity sundered
from its own face or mind, cup-wise
falling back into the expenditure it took
to fix its curves—fixity
itself a kind of rear view: a word
of clay from the earth, a mumble of fire
appending virtue in glasseous glaze,
trucks, growling trucks to carry
the finished vessel to market
infused with what the scientists call
embodied energy.

That Beginning Place

Kate Boyd

The air was cool and damp, car windows spangled with rivulets of water fragmenting the beams from street lamp and neon sign. Detroit’s carious 1940s skyline looms from the east, as we enter the warren that is the old Warehouse District. Something stirred us to visit the District . . . something in the honey-colored flickering light at that old Art Deco bar, where we sipped newly legal Absinthe and Benedictine, and ate tiny octopus with ink-stained fingers. When we paid, the bartender gave us the small, ivory-colored card—nothing but an address. He tapped the card encouragingly, winked, then moved off down the bar.

I feel too old to be comfortable at a club, clubbing being a pursuit of my teens and early 20s. My husband and I met at a club, a decade ago, on what became the funeral of our wild days. We found each other, settled down, those late-nights an old balloon collapsed to nothing years after the party.

As he drove, I reached across the seat and his hand moved towards mine even as eyes kept to the road, eyes crinkling at the corners in shared pleasure. We pulled into a lot surrounded by hurricane fence and barbed wire. The far end of the lot’s smothered in feet of trash and leaves, from what trees only God knows, nothing grows here but brick, metal, broken glass. There is a tiny booth on the lot, small window leaking tinny radio noise, and the parking attendant slinks all business over to our car. He matches the District well: asphalt colored jeans, faded grey sweatshirt, old green flight-jacket. We pay him $8 to not call his friends to ransack our vehicle. He touches fingers to non-existent cap and glides back to the booth, dope fume drifting after.

The Building is a 12-story mountain of cindered brick and crumbling terracotta facings. The door is pitted steel, no visible handle, propped by chunk of broken masonry block. He pushes open the door to a double stairwell, one going up, one down. The lower stair ends in a tangle of rusted gate, shattered plates, a charred wheelchair. A partially burned toy rabbit peers out from under the bent wheel, stuffing yellow and sad. The stairs leading up are lit by a single, industrial bulb that flickers: dot__dot_dash; we start to climb, my heels grating loud on the dust and dirt. Through our soles we feel the steady Thrud-Thrud-Thrud of a bass engine, air thrums as a hive of giant bees.

Two flights up is another steel doorway, this one painted with a large, rust-colored “X”. I push this open and we enter. The place is cavernous, huge, a starship hanger of a room—the entire center of the building carved away to rotted joist. Cross-sections of floors every two stories, up, up to the (roof?) The floor feels muffled underfoot, sawdust? The interior dwarfs the shabby tables and chairs, strewn about the perimeter, flotsam and jetsam. The heart of the building spins with people, the lighting, dim, hints at form rather than reveals. We slip our way through the crowd, he looks back at me, face alight, I feel excitement, caught from the press of sweating bodies and quick, whisper-light hands on back and thighs. We make our way to the grand bar, order drinks. The bartender has a stovepipe hat cocked at a rakish angle, his fine, sculpted face and hot dark eye make an electric thrill below the belt. The bartender’s hands are long and lean, but his fingernails, as he hands over drinks, are black with grease and filth. I sip gingerly at the rim of the glass, hoping I don’t catch plague from the ice cubes. I down the first drink, husband presses another into my hand, as one is pressed into his. Drink. Drink me. The dancers rotate, someone takes my arm and I’m propelled into the middle of the throng, hot arms looped through mine, lightening quick he grabs my arm, keep us linked. The room breathes in and out, the figures move in slow waves, weeds in deep ocean current. My hair soaks through, straggling around my face sticky and itching. Sifted through the crowd, two eddying sticks. We fetch up in a dense clot of dancers; I struggle, grab his shirt, fingers slick and cramping.

“I want to leave!” I groan to him as we press, are pressed, ever tighter, caught for a moment out of circulation. “Yes . . . but I (something)” he yells over the noise. My head feels crammed with wool and heart fluttering in my chest, the room is stifling, fetid. The hands coming out of the crowd are irritating, sharp pinches here and there like crabs, then disappear into black.

I try to figure out where we came in. I can’t see the other end of the club, the (ceiling?) is invisible, where the fuck is light coming from? It’s nothing but people, bodies, movement, steam, screams, and smoke. I think the doorway out is over there, at the top of scaffolding stairs, thirty or so feet from the bar. I yell as much, close to his ear, and we head that way—fighting the crowd counterclockwise. Gradually, painfully, we make our way. An age later, I see the steel door and recognize the rickety tables where we came in. As we make our way, a group of figures comes out of (somewhere), blocks the doorway. I am desperate to get out, get some air but . . . The Woman, elegant 50s perhaps, at the front has a stiff velvet suit of deepest blue, her black eyes glitter with secret knowledge. The men, daguerreotype roustabouts, toughs from some defunct gang like the Pug Uglies, or Alley Cats. My chest hurts, the air is sooty—black smoke billowing up from the burning lamp by the door. One wild look down, seeing a modern, black dress—though one heel has come off and my bare foot bleeds into the (dirt) flooring from where a toenail has been torn to the quick.

“You’re . . . not to leave just yet Ser and Ms.,” says one of the men, almost apologetic. “Our Lady has somethin’ wondrous fine to show you” He grins strong, strong teeth and wet red tongue. I feel myself mirroring the grin, nervous to the hilt. I look at husband and his eyes are wide, staring he says (something) and lunges at the nearest tough, who tips backwards with a rough cry. Within seconds our arms are pulled behind us, legs swooped out from under and stinking bags pulled overhead. I am moving in darkness, music thundering almost as loud as heartbeat. My head is knocked and bruised as we’re taken away.

Out of the dark I am given a swift blow to the gut, the wind is knocked from me and the bag is torn from my face. On the floor in a long room, at the furthest end is a trans-Atlantic steamer truck, standing on end. A string of fairy lights hanging on the wall behind illuminates the meat-colored, stained leather and corroded brass fitments. However, the strapping appears new.

The woman in the suit leans over me as I try to catch a breath. Husband lays next to me, legs sprawled, bag still overhead. She steps over me, tears the bag from him. He is awake, but his eyes are dull, silent, defeated. The woman steps back, and smiles a sad, radiant smile at me before advancing on his prone form. “I apologize, for this is not usually the way . . . but you’ve been very difficult to find.” she says. “No” I manage, eyes fixed on the trunk . . . could it be it’s opened a crack?

“Put them in together,” she commands with a flick of the wrist towards the trunk. The men move, those who’ve filled in the space around her, man with the teeth, silent wraith, feverish with skin stretched yellow, and one other that I can’t get my mind around.

We are both gathered up, and while I’m struggling like a fish on a pier, he hangs limp, eyes half closed, skin grey. As we are moved towards the trunk it gapes open, interior black, a hole cut in the world. We are shoved hard, pushed forward, folding in as the lid shuts with a final bang. For a minute, all I can hear is my breath, and in the blackness sparkling lights . . . as I fade out I hear you say “look at the then all . . . like tiny suns!”

The alarm is going off so I reach across the bed to poke you awake. My hand searches the cool, smooth sheets—no hint of warmth, you are not there. My eyes snap open, I am not sure how I got here, in bed, at home.

I sit up, look towards the closet—your clothes hang there same as yesterday (yesterday?). I stumble out of bed, hobble to the bathroom, am sick in the toilet. I catch my breath, then wash my face and hands over and over with cool water from the tap, light off, avoid the mirror as I don’t need to see the damage. This is silly. You must have fallen asleep on the sofa after we came home from the bar. I contemplate never drinking again as the nightmares are just too awful—not to mention the nauseous teeth clamping steel jaws around my head, and the ache from sleeping wrong, right down into the bone.

I wander out into the living room, then into the kitchen. I don’t hear the TV on downstairs, but I pad down light footed to wake you up. The couch is bare. TV screen blank with dust.

I search each room again and again. I remember other times I’ve not been able to find you, as you’ve been puttering in the garage or yard. Maybe you are out by the vegetable garden, or on the phone.

Phone . . . that plate on the wall is blinking again, and there’s a cheery, familiar voice coming out. “Pick up, pick up, pick up! Time to wake-up, wake-up, wake-up!”

I press the button and the screen lights. A thin woman with grey hair clipped to the side with a rhinestone butterfly pin, blue eyes wreathed in humor and wrinkles.

“Hi Sister, I thought I’d call and see if you wanted to go out later for drinks and maybe a dinner . . . I thought you might be feeling a bit down.”

“Yes” I say. “That would be lovely, thank you . . . how about 6-ish?”

I hang up, and know that no matter how much I search, today, tomorrow, I won’t find what I’m looking for.

Out of the Loop

Veronica Robinson

Out of the Loop

This Was Pompeii

Veronica Robinson

This Was Pompeii

The Suitcase

Blake Hamilton

This is for you
and
the train ride—

we got off
together and walked
through the neighborhood forest

you have suitcases buried
in more than one place
I know about them
when we talk about your

—expeditions

you like to tell me what you included,
the letters you wrote
and how you imagine readers -
constructing their discovery
of the things you
buried for them, a list of contents,

“He traced my spine” is
something you would hold out to me-

if it were in a book
or a poem
and laugh
because we needed something
to humiliate

when you left I pawned your guitar
and went out
I didn’t tell you this
when we met again
because I was pressed
up against you and your arms
cut a firm X
across my back tracing my spine

you mention the burial and
I have to tell
you it’s gone
−    they’ve built something new there
your face is regret plain
then your arms again and everything and I am loved
here I am loved
here I am loved

Gloves On

Larisa Shewczyk

Gloves On

Deixis

Sarah Van Bonn

Every shell was once a home that something lived inside.

We used to live behind ‘us.’ (My private spaces sometimes inaccessible, even to me, overlapped. Yours, I thought I knew, though I never could. Which is how it always is.)

It was the most natural thing, the placement, the filling up, fulfillment. That space was meant for you and you fit like puzzle piece (no funny stretching at the corners, none of that ‘maybe these two go together’ wishful thinking that you allow yourself even though you know they don’t, because the colors or shapes don’t quite match, and there’s something just slightly off about the fit, the cardboard lacking that satisfying click; you know it when you feel it, that fitting click, just like you pretend not to miss it when you don’t). You were a puzzle piece that made the whole puzzle, comprised it. There was nothing to connect you to; you were complete on your own, whole, fit-click, behind that ‘you.’ I didn’t hesitate to feel you there, to keep you there, to show you there. I knew it when I felt it, immediately. You: my one-piece puzzle, no sign of boundaries, of blending, no dotted lines to cut across, no valleys and ridges and mountains nestling their edges against the rest of the landscape. Just you.

In the end, the beginning is just like it, like the end. Eerily similar. The pregnancy of moments. The terrifying wonder, so limitless, its light all over everything, difficult, even, to enjoy, because it can’t last forever and how can anything else compare. And now(/then, as in after). The dark shadow twin. A world of lasts. Knowing it will come, it’s coming, it’s here, it came, it’s gone. And nothing can be done to stop it and there’s no way to ever be sure. The beginning, once it’s made it cannot be undone, but the end continues forever and it’s never really over, never done. It goes on, an empty infinity, your (my) eyes scan the smooth horizon, looking for the smallest spark, a tiny sign that there is something else, something still, new, to live, to collect.

All that’s really left is a hole and the clutter. The lack and the debris. Your own self’s mirror, its reflection of what ‘happened,’ its stupid, inevitable imperfection. But “he” (you) is gone. All that’s left is an imprint, the objects, some dust floating in the air, a swirl of wind from the closing of the door. Eyes heavy with why and how. The pain of the vacating of pronouns. Like they are the door (“behind door #1…”). HE is the shell. but he doesn’t live there anymore.

Instead I have your objects in my space. Your fragments. Your leftovers. Your left behinds. My obsession with chronicling gave me enough for a lifetime of ____. Memories? Reminders? Empty signifiers? Not simulacrum, just vacated signs. Nobody inside them. Nothing there. Shells, sketches, billowing curtains, the door to an empty room. I hate them. I mourn them. I love them. I cling to them. I shove them away, consume them, reject them, vomit them, absorb them. They are precious and despicable. Beautiful, unsightly. captivating, repugnant. Compelling and repulsive. Pulling you in, pushing you away.

You (meaning I) can live with them forever, buried under your skin like slivers of wood the flesh has grown over. You can try to dig them out. You can try to give them all back. Detox. Picking shards of glass out of your body. Counting off. One time or more for each little bit. One pinprick as the backlash. One scar each. Varying shapes and sizes. This little piggy went to market. Count them down, an infinite number. Counting back from infinity.

Sometimes I feel it releasing itself, the vise that cocoons me, the goopy strands that stretch between us. Like petals of an aging flower, falling off one by one, except they are attached with superglue, nails, blood and guts and flesh and tissue and nerves, more like pulling out teeth or fingers. I grasp their fleshy weight and pull, try to remove them. But some grow back, some stronger than before, even harder to tear out. I wrestle with them when I can until I can’t anymore. Then let them go, gather them up to cradle, know that I wouldn’t unburden myself of them, even if I could.

I can no longer open the door to our home to find you with me there. Nobody lives there now, nobody will again, not in that space. It’s shuttered and boarded, and not even we can get in. I’m out on the porch. Me and the bits of you that are still inside me, the bits of other ‘you’s before you, the holes to be filled by other ‘you’s to come. We all sit down to rest, to gather up our strength before we move along.

What We Talk About

Tishon

“Hmm, What’s my favorite part of a woman’s body?”

“I don’t know. I’d say a woman’s ass but that feels a little too obvious.”

“No, obvious isn’t wrong exactly. It’s just, you know, I’d like to think my taste has gotten a little better since high school. It’s like the guy in his mid-twenties who’s still really into boobs. After a certain age, you’d think titties would have long been demystified.”

“I like thighs, i guess. Or like this space just behind your ear, where I can sort of smell your shampoo interacting with your lotion.”

“Wait, actually, you know, there is one particular part of a woman’s body that I absolutely love. Turn around. Onto your side.”

“This –– This space, right here, from your hip to just below your rib cage. I think that’s the most beautiful part of a woman’s body. It’s this natural kind of S-curve you can hold onto.”

“Did you come?”

Sam’s Lady

Larisa Shewczyk

Sam’s Lady

Bird and Monster

Annie Quick

Bird and Monster

A Hero’s Head Is Laced with String

William Prince

Gus, now eighty, for some or no reason at all, thought of his first attempt at bravery. His first foray into the wilds of the unknown. At twelve years old, inspired by the garish pulp covers of Amazing Stories magazine, he prepared himself for peril. Determined to leave his mother’s home for the cold embrace of the dangerous world, Gus set about his room packing and taking registers of necessary provisions: a K45 Swiss Army knife, with mini-shears and a built-in pocket light; a velvet bag of marbles; two scarves and three pairs of gloves; over a pound of jerky he had bought for fifteen cents at his father’s store; a coverless atlas, its leather casing pulled off and exposing a frail set of places, tattered and tannin with coffee stains; enough magazines to read for a year; and a small compass, encased in pristine stainless steel, ready for its first adventure.

With compass in hand, he stared at a map of the globe on his wall, plastered carefully to the space above his junior bureau. Stuck into the thin paper were pins, dangling with colored string. The strings correlated to a little map key Gus had scribed in crayon, blue string from a pin denoting somewhere he wanted to go, red string signifying the places too dangerous to tread, and orange string marking those places that he had already been.

There were two pins with orange string: one pressed into east Albany, his home, and the other stuck into a southern part of what he believed to be Connecticut (there were no lines delineating states on the map, just a large mass of America with its terrain penciled on in a faded graphite).

Red string hung off a number of places, the storied locales Gus knew to have a propensity for swallowing humans: the Bermuda Triangle, the Pacific Ocean, the icy tundras of Alaska, and portions of the Wild West of America that were still prone to marauding cowboys and cold-eyed reprobates. Gus’s knowledge of the world was confined to dime tales and magazine yarns, and so he could guess, with some or no certainty, that these places were worth steering clear of.

And the rest was blue string. Everywhere he had never been, a map of infinite blue possibility, caveats in red and a giant expanse of world ready to receive a splash of orange.

Gus fastened his knapsack, busting with his tools for travel. His mother and father were in bed, the morning yet to fully arrive, which provided unnoticed and unquestioned passage through the house. Dressed in layers of thermal, a worn pair of snow boots, and a sea captain’s hat atop a fuzzy set of earmuffs, Gus stomped his way through the hall of his home, ready to conquer his empty map, and eager to escape the confines of Albany and the tame, boring pall cast over the entire city.

Gus was ready for war. Or possibly not—war was horrid and Gus had never heard of anyone surviving it without sacrifice. He thought of the mothers on Palgrave Avenue, their black veils blotted with tears as their sons were paraded in a cavalcade of flag-draped coffins. No, war was possibly too much.

But Gus was ready for torrential rain and a deluge of snow. Though, as he thought long and hard about it, there were stories he had heard, of men lost in the blinding white wilderness. These men, the frost on their noses and fingers turning their skin black, were rumored to have begun devouring each other, the Colorado mountains painted a dark crimson by the spilled blood of man-as-food. Gus shuttered at the notion. Cannibals? No, he was not ready for cannibals. And so maybe the inclement weather of the Andes could wait.

And so Gus thought, with absoluteness, that he was at the very least ready for the open road—by bus or train or spacecraft. The limitless unknown. But the unknown could be tricky—a precarious thing. Gus had read of the plains of Mars, the sands of the Sahara, the storefronts of South Texas. Occasionally, even the heroes of the pulps were laid to rest by the trouble that lurked at the margins. Indians, lawless men, fanged space creatures. One could never be sure what dark figures were waiting in the wings, no matter where you were. Gus certainly wasn’t ready to die, especially with such a vast world to explore. So maybe the unknown could wait.

Going over the quickly shrinking infinity in his mind, Gus approached the door, the marbles and wool scarves weighing down his bag and pulling his small body towards the ground. He opened it, careful to not let the hinges squeak, lest his first adventure be prematurely snuffed by his parents.

With a mighty stride, Gus stepped through the doorframe and into the amber dawn. The world was only half awake, the murmurs of the bakeries and pharmacies echoing through Gus’s ears and heart. Adventure. This was it.

Gus stood on his porch, and couldn’t help but take notice of how cold the wind was at the back of his neck. And the day seemed too precious for danger—the sunrise was beautiful, splashing the treetops with a deep purple that made him think of Thanksgiving at home. And maybe he didn’t need the marbles? He was awfully fond of them, but in truth, he knew he’d probably be better-suited with more jerky. The weight of the unknowable world seemed heavy, leaden. Not today, Gus thought. And so with his bag full of tricks and compass clutched firmly in his sweaty digits, Gus turned around and went back inside, the autumn breeze smacking the hairs on his nape for hours after his retreat into the house, back into his bed, back into a place where danger dare not speak its name.

Story of Angel

Michelle Angelique Davidson

Angel was clearly aware of all the clichés in life, but here she was at a crossroad in her
life. Here she sits at twenty-seven re-evaluating all that she expected in her life, for nearly the
hundredth time. Pictures in her mind, tracing all the way to her youth begin to flood through her veins. Then out of nowhere, a sudden rush overwhelms her entire being. She closes her eyes…

As Angel reopens her eyes, she sees herself as a young girl. There she is sitting beside
her desk listening to music and writing her goals, hopes, dreams and deepest wishes in her favorite notebook.  With a childlike awe, full of innocence and wonder, the master plan in life begins to be written out. It was always easier for her to express her emotions on pen and paper. For Angel, it was a way for her to feel closer to whoever may listen to her desires and to learn about herself.  Her writing consisted of what she shall be when she grows up, to when she wants to marry, how many children she want to have and the qualities of her dream man.  At the end of writing it all out, a sense of release and satisfaction consumed Angel’s heart. Her essence felt like one day it will all come true..

Poof! Moments later Angel is transported to a different segment in her life.  No more a
little girl, now this present Angel is that of a teenage girl. Yet again we find ourselves at the same setting. That same desk, only now instead of a book there is a computer replacing the pen and paper. The concept remains the same. Angel sits by her desk, allowing all her emotions, words, longings to fill the electronic page. Years have passed since she sat down to write something from her heart. It felt like her soul was calling her to express all that has changed and all that she still yearns to obtain. New aspirations have replaced those distant yet still so close memories and desires in life. As she sits and writes, she notices that . . . yes life has begun to  slowly unfold and lay down the foundation she has been wanting since a young girl. But there are still some things that are missing. She decided to make the modifications on what she thought she needed in life. Nevertheless, Angel feels now sadness as she finishes writing her letter. A part of her spirit feels that naivety exiting and in the upcoming years it being replaced with a jaded image of her. That concept scares her with a passion, she closes her eyes again to hold back the tears . . . Breathe an internal voice says . . . just breathe.

Time hurts and heals as bitter sweet as the cliché is. Angel begins to age and evolve into the woman she will learn to embrace. Time continues to fly. Angel witnesses herself zooming through the years of her life. Going to college, growing into adulthood, hardships, happy times and heart breaking moments, it is as her life is fast forwarding through a motion picture. Everything Angel sees she feels intensely and it touches her heart on a vast level. Her senses feel like it is going through sensory overload. Again the internal voice says, breathe. Angel sees life events unfold that begin to shift priorities and close herself off further and further to where she always needed to be, where she longed to be, where she knows she should be.

Then a fog falls into the air. Angel blacks out for a moment. As her eyes begin to regain its clarity and sharpness, there Angel again sees herself but now at a closer point in time. Yes it is a newer chapter in her life. One very close to where she is at now, perhaps only a few weeks prior. Her deepest darkest dreams came true. Somehow in the mist of life and its rollercoaster ride, Angel has begun to put a cover over her heart and go inward to a place she never wanted to go into. Her heart cannot take any more hurt, pain, disappointment or stagnation. She always wanted to be free like a bird, experiencing all that life has to offer and to be able to trust those around her. Sometimes life has a different approach. You must lose all sense of what you think is right, let go of your wants,  let go of your fears and slowly remove layer by layer to expose the real you. The true essence of your mind, body, heart and spirit in order to gain vision on what you always wanted can be at your fingertips. If you learn to just breathe. That internal voice always saying “breathe” was trying to help in an indirect way. For life is a journey that in order for you to appreciate you have to go through all the negative and positive experiences so you could venture through the right door. Letting go to breathe and have your spirit be your guide, will open you up to a whirlwind of pleasant opportunities. That is if you can be ready to accept what possibilities can come your way.

All that knowledge filtered through Angel’s being as she watched herself, writing again as the woman she is presently. She began to let go. Fully, unconditionally let go. Allowing all that is supposed to happen in life happen. She wrote with a fury she never had before. Now I am ready she wrote. It is time to allow the signs to fall into place. The words paint a picture a new one of her life and she is able to whole heartily see. Then the puzzle pieces start to click into place.

The room began to spin. Angel was in awe. I am back where I started out she said. But is she really at the same place? In the physical sense, yes, right back where she was before she closed her eyes. There is something very different now. That magic trip tracing her youth to present did something so special to Angel. Now it is time. Angel knows what she needs to do. She begins to document all that has happened to her, in hopes that what she foresaw will come into motion. That the doors will open in her career, she will begin to lay down the roots for her life and share it with someone she always knew in her heart is meant for her.

In twenty-four hours, her life began to change. The sign showed itself and Angel was not afraid to take the leap. For life is a twist of various turns. Learning to be true to your spirit and nature and not to lose sight of yourself as things become, empty or hard, but to remain strong and learn to breathe was all the lessons she needed to allow herself to have that door open. Into his arms she plunged…arms wide open, heart ready to fall and hope that what once was forgotten and buried, flourishes like the flower she always was. Life found a way to work itself full circle for Angel. Now Angel’s new wish is to capture and touch your hearts with her story and hope you can apply it in a way you believe is fit for your lives. For one voice can spur a change that is needed for all. . . .

C-Section

Karla Sutton

One day this line will be
Just the trace of a scar
Or so they tell me
With a smile
And so it is
Like a smile below my navel
Almost concealed
Beneath the sprawl of my pubic hair

It was underneath bright lights
On a cold metal table
That they traced the line with a scalpel
Can you feel this
The anesthesiologist asked
Does this feel cold
No I don’t feel it
I answered
I didn’t feel it
When they cut me
When they dug inside my layers
To find you
I didn’t feel it
When they pulled you out
And I could only move my head
Straining to see
As they carried you
First quiet and then crying
To the corner of the room with the scale
I didn’t feel it
You wriggling
You breathing
I didn’t feel it until later
Until they lifted me off the table
And wheeled me away
To another sterile room
Where I waited for you
Like a delivery
They brought you in

And then you were there
Tow-head on my chest
Your tiny body lying along the brown line that grew darker up my belly as you grew bigger inside it
And it was then that finally
I felt you—warm and alive, plush life against mine, drinking up my heart beneath my breast

I trace this line of mine now, a long seam to remember how they stole you out of me with some line about your head and my hips and the time closing in on us.
“It doesn’t matter,” the world around me consoles the loss of my birthing you.
And yes, it doesn’t matter, because you are here and I am your life now.
And it doesn’t matter because this new world bathed in love and milk and sleep and cries and smiles is all that matters now.
Yet as I trace this line, this closure of my womb, I cannot help but think that it does.