on the eve of our youngest child’s third birthday

It took three cigarettes this time —

three cigarettes and all my matches —

to feel all my feelings and untangle the tightness within me.

My hands are still cold, my hood is still up.

The child I call “baby” sleeps peacefully.

Tomorrow she’ll be three.

In the fall, Lord willing, she’ll go to school,

her social self will love classmates and play centers,

and a vista of seven open hours in each day stretches ahead of me.

No sidekick, no diapers, no helping that costs me

with each breakable plate she hands to me.

“’It is a period, indeed! eight years and a half is a period.’”

That Captain Wentworth quote I’ve never been able to let go of —

but for eight weeks, two years ago, I thought the period would be longer.

If genes didn’t misfire, or hormones go awry, if this dumb world wasn’t broken.

Our baby should have been a big sister.

Her little brother (I picked a sex after the loss) should be

a one year old, walking around, climbing the stairs,

scaring me every time, giggling, utterly loved by his siblings and parents.

The city street lights dimly shone,

enough to see the color of a daffodil almost bloomed.

Three crocuses (white with purple streaks) closed up against the night chill,

a police car slowed down to check me out, hunched and teary on my stoop.

Coulda been the same ones that sat my husband on the curb

that time he tried to help a drunk lady.

Some unknown bit of reflection

glinted in the pot with the dead chrysanthemums,

and I finally asked Jesus why.

I don’t call them rainbow babies but we’ve lost

— and conceived again quickly — before. My oldest two,

strong and smart and dramatic, dark haired and eyed.

But no rainbows came this time.

We ended our run on a loss.

I’d done it before, the dance with grief and loss,

“how do you do, miscarriage, may I have this dance?”

(not a great dance partner, by the way —

can’t keep the beat, steps on your toes, jerks you around.)

But my baby is three.

This isn’t a dance anymore, it’s a partnership.

unwanted but effective.

No more diapers. Time alone in my house.

Being able to focus with no little brown hands

getting in my face, pulling on my clothes.

“Mama, I want to play with you!”

To everything there is a season, right?

A time for every matter under heaven.

Sometimes, you breathe deep,

fill your lungs with nicotine,

and mourn and anticipate together.

Our family loves & serves our church New City South in St. Louis, MO. Grumpy old codger especially about church music & a writer, maybe, with 4 small children

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