You’re fine, and then you think, I’m not fine, I’m just
treading water so fast I can’t quite sink. Weekends
aren’t weekends when you parent a child who wants
to know where you’re going and when you’ll be back
when you stand from your chair to get more coffee.
Thursdays you spend four hours thumbing books
of poems trying to find a room inside your head
and don’t find it. Worry for your son is the silence inside
every room and the noise. The second night in a row
you get home to a babysitter and rush to hug him, he lets you,
limply, and doesn’t meet your eye. Two days later you make him
laugh at the dinner table and you realize if you can just stay
joyful every minute you’re with him you might successfully
irradiate the sadness from his bones like a love chemo.
For the first time in his life, you’re watching your child
accumulate little piles of grief and no amount of washing
over and over those shards will turn them dull and harmless
as seaglass. You try to stop flailing outwardly and get quiet,
sink down inside and trust a stillness will fill you
and hold you, half-drowned but breathing.
You want to believe drowning isn’t even the right analogy—
something with cocoons instead—that the waiting
has a change at the end of it, but if the butterflies and moths
could talk they’d tell you having your skin and insides
reduced to goo hurts worse than you first imagined. They’d say
there’s pain until you don’t have a body left to feel it with,
until the pain dulls down into an itch you can climb out of.
Megan Gannon is the author of Cumberland, a novel, and White Nightgown, a poetry collection. New work appears in Boulevard, Barrow Street, and Crazyhorse. She is an assistant professor of English at Ripon College.