The Conundrum (Splitting the Baby)
for kimberly mays twigg
(originally published in Poetry St.Corner)
Sometimes I ask myself why I didn’t
give her back sooner. Would it have
been easier then, before I knew her
personality, the sweet meaning of her
every sound, every movement? Already
I loved her smell, the weight of her
small head on my chest, already I’d
soothed and fed and washed her forty
days running. That other mother gave
life, I gave only touch, warmth, comfort.
I couldn’t help it; I fell in love,
it happens like that, quickly, without
thought. I didn’t know how it felt
to be someone’s mother. When I couldn’t
become pregnant, I cried for days.
My insides felt soft and hollow
like an empty purse. This little girl
loves me, I know she does. She reflects
color, a rainbow back to my eyes,
in her smallest toe resides my universe.
I lie next to her at night, breathing
the rich, salty fragrance of her hair,
feeling her body growing, expanding
to meet mine, and over our private nest
flows time, but for as long as we can
we rest outside death’s pull, allowing
all that to pass by, content with this
lovely darkness, this glimpse of heaven.
Sometimes I ask myself why I gave her up
in the first place. It wasn’t easy, not
even then; I haven’t held her since
the day she was born, but I know her,
like she’ll know me, without thinking.
I began her life, I walked with her body
in mine for nine months, we were never apart,
not for a second. I called her my daughter.
That woman has taken care of my poor baby
for years, but in her heart it’s only me
she’ll call Mama. Any fool knows this,
anybody with a brain will tell you adoption
is always a mistake. It was a crisis
of self-esteem, more than anything.
A momentary weakness, where I thought
maybe I wasn’t strong enough to keep
her safe. Once, during all this trouble,
I almost gave up. All I had in my hands
was a pink plastic bracelet, but I
couldn’t forget holding her, I couldn’t
forget how her toes curled against her foot,
so small, so clean, so much like my own.
Now she’ll never have to wonder whether
I loved her, she’ll never have to discover
where I live. The time we spent apart
will be forgotten; she’s young and there’s
plenty of time for our life to weave itself
back together, to re-create that lost paradise.
Sometimes I ask myself why I couldn’t
have had them both forever. Is love
so smart that it can tell the difference
between one drop of blood and another?
Being born was harder the second time,
though life at home smells just as sweet;
the weight of this new mother, her reassuring
size, pressed against me like a heavy sheaf
of autumn grain, the harvest of all dreams.
Dimness is where that sad part of me lives now,
the part that slept near the other, warm shadow-woman
of my first days, hands that held fast, then
were made to let go. Dimness, and a strangely
focused longing, a lifelong vocation to tell
people (remember, I have no patience for fools,
none at all) it’s never as simple as it seems,
a child’s soul can travel to all four corners,
filling even the most tortured shape imaginable.
God knows, when I have my own daughter, she’ll
ask how it was to be torn apart by love, and
I’ll have to tell her: it was a beauty and
a terror and a fiery cross, and like Jesus,
though I felt the need to exclaim aloud my
body’s pain, I knew that gaining the knowledge
of good and evil had a price; those of us who’ve
paid it don’t for a minute regret our sacrifice.
Yes, it hurt, yes, it left scars, and yes, now and
again I have trouble sleeping — but, don’t we all?