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the conundrum (splitting the baby), a poem, for kimberly mays twigg

kimberly mays infant photo Switched At Birth, www.silverimagephotoagency.com

The Conundrum  (Splitting the Baby)

for kimberly mays twigg

(originally published in Poetry St.Corner)

I.

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.

II.

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.

III.

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?

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