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Breath & Shadow

Winter 2019 - Vol. 16, Issue 1

"In Sorrow Brought Forth" and "A Childhood"

written by

Rebecca Cross

"In Sorrow Brought Forth"


Child, you are a mountain at my breast.
Your fist balls over my heart. You won’t latch.
I’m stitched up below, head a dimmed bulb,
drowsy in thick, mineral air.

The nurses let me hold you but stand close by.
I can’t tell what they think
beyond their starched smiles.
But the sight of their white hands chills me.

You grimace, deep in sleep’s double eye.
Your dreams balloon outward.
Watching you breathe, I think, God is also a fish.
No one knows what will become of you.

Halfway between worlds, you stopped,
strangled in my net. They had to drag you
free of my body. Now, this thin membrane around you
is more shroud than skin.

Your eyelids quiver, slice the dark iris in two.
The half-moons of your eyes gaze at something
over my shoulder. A god, perhaps,
pointless, incurable.

You are already so old and the world you inhabit
too brief. Your body folds inward,
bending to pain’s gravity.
Your mouth opens.

My moon-dense child, sleep-ridden and dumb,
there is no understanding you.
No ache is as deep as your mouth,
no night as dark as your cry.

"A Childhood"

feeling foreign in my own body.
Being taken for a boy
because of my short hair. Hiding my ruined arm

behind my back when talking to others.
I imagined tongues like flickering lights
on my skin. I bit the soft flesh of a plum

and all the purple spilled out.
I could hardly touch anything
without feeling it was alive. I worried

about hurting one spoon’s feelings
if I used another. I didn’t understand
where words went after they were spoken.

Or how someone cries and suddenly everything
breaks open. I didn’t cry as a child.
That doesn’t mean I was happy.

Childhood sins are the hardest to shake.
I still blush remembering how
I made fun of my sister’s small breasts

or how I stole two candles from church.
I’ll never forget the day I followed
a caterpillar on its way to build a cocoon,

or how it looked after my one careless step,
one half of it spilled on the sidewalk,
the other still aiming toward flight.

Rebecca Cross works as an editor in Vermont. Her poems have appeared in elimae and
Pedestal, among other places, and are forthcoming in Monstering.

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