The barren hills drift by the car window
as I stare at the bleak grey of the sunless sky.
My husband follows the rise and swell of the road’s contours.
I think of all the would-be children
I could have had, before now,
before this man beside me,
the scraped knees, slobbery kisses,
the parade of mothers’ days with too runny yolks,
falsely bright and staining the toast
like a broken promise.
My children that never were.
The Thanksgiving table glistens; the glasses arranged just so.
My parents turn not to us but to the stranger,
the contractor who lays out tiles and smooths over cracks.
They each miss my cracks, the tremors along the fault line
that foreshadow lost dreams amid the rubble of memories like this one.
I fade into the background like I never was,
and only my husband hears the buildings crash in the quake
and sees the fissures in the veins of my heart.
We leave with as little notice as we had arrived,
slinking off into the black night like an unwanted cat,
fed out of duty or guilt, a minimum threshold.
I wonder about our indecision.
It hangs in the sky, a waxing moon,
a silver sliver, like a baby’s fingernail,
round and perfect against the creamy pink skin
that we would kiss again and again and again
as we stand transfixed by the sweeping flutter of a blink,
the intricate knots of color pooling in the irises—
will her eyes be blue like mine or the tawny green hazel of her father—
blossoming into giggles and requests for just one more story.
We would be so overcome with love for this bundle, this gift,
that our tongues would lie useless and mute,
the subtle glance of our eyes and the caress of an errant finger
enough to communicate the tide of pride and love
that recedes, leaving raw and exposed the muddy pools of fear
under the gleaming light of a full moon.
The moon wanes now,
as I wonder about our indecision,
like a sliver of a baby’s fingernail,
so like the pale white scars on my own body,
the visual reminder of the wounds lurking beneath.
The baby’s own flawless creamy pink skin bubbles and froths
into a bloody, misshapen rage, a merciless tyrant.
Colorless, dull eyes reflect my own exhaustion.
I whisper, shh, and hush, and shush now,
soothing touches that lose the rounded, soft edges,
become strident and discordant and cacophonous—
Which of us is screaming? I can’t tell.
We crest another hill, overlooking the fields,
stripped raw and bare of their golden harvest,
and I wonder what our Thanksgivings will be like,
whether the deep pools of grief I feel will be inherited
as I surely inherited this burden of unimportance,
these muddled inadequacies, my own mother’s heirlooms,
like passing on a disposition to weak eyesight or thin hair,
and in the uncertain silence that stretches along the road before us,
I resent the pregnant moon for its orphanhood, for its easy optimism.