Once upon a time your hair was dark as mine.
Your hands were always in fists,
mine always reaching.
When you slept, you slept in a basket beside the bed.
When I slept, I dreamt you were drowning
in bedsheets. Mostly, we stayed up
all night, crying.
It wasn’t love at first sight, despite the promises
of what-to-expect literature.
Your heart rate had fallen
to non-reassuring; you were danger
wrenched out of me.
I was broken, not elated.
Your first day on earth your scalp was loose
as a shar-pei’s— boggy the nurse called it—
because you’d been sucked
into the world.
Too tender to clean, your soft spot stayed crusted
with the muck of motherhood.
When I tried to describe your hair
to my mother over the phone, I called it grey.
We weren’t allowed visitors; we refused
the hospital photographer.
I propped you on starchy pillows, too afraid
to touch you. I buzzed for help when you hiccupped.
The night nurse mashed your face into my breast
and you gnawed absently, but didn’t swallow.
You slept against fluorescent glare and burned
through your cache of fat. You didn’t want to need me.
The next day, in the hospital lobby, I waited
with you, a pink frog strapped into a car seat.
Gushing the blood that had sustained you, I imagined
your father paying the parking fee and driving away
as fast and far as he could.