The trove of other mothers
By Sandra Joy Stein
Cradling her son
As his body thrashed
Legs like iron rods.
Try to bend them, honey,
Tell your legs what to do,
They’re your legs.
It will pass, she said, again.
It always passes.
After minutes or hours—she was never sure,
He calmed. Curled. Gazed into the void.
She gazed too.
A giant tear startled her, when it fell on her arm.
Was that his tear or hers?
She preferred not to cry while holding him.
Then another tear, this time most definitely hers
He was limp, motionless, breathing, heavy in her arms.
More tears. Her arm now wet.
He fell asleep. So peaceful. So beautiful. If you didn’t know, you wouldn’t know, she thought. She loved to stare at him while sleeping.
Rest, she said, her palm to his cheek. You rest.
She called out—no, not to some doctor or deity—she called out to the trove of other mothers who at this very moment were, like her, cradling sick babies, and grown babies, and limp and lifeless but very much alive babies.
From behind shadows and tucked away spaces and homes-made-hospitals and hospitals-made-homes
Their forms emerged
Weathered hands, kinked necks, crooked backs, heavy eyes, furrowed brows.
They looked right at her in a way that no one had since…
We see you.
We feel you.
We know you.
We are you.
Like a somber gospel choir they swayed and sang,
No, sister, you have not failed
No, sister, this is not fair
No, sister, you are not alone
Never alone. Never alone.
She blinked back to her sleeping son.
Her arm, now dry, she dug
deeper, yet again.