I drive differently now.
I have to most definitely stay alive for this boy. Or else what would he eat?
It’s not just about the milk. I have to stay alive for at least 25 years. That’s when Henry reaches adulthood. If I die before then, I risk putting in his eyes what I see in the eyes of people who lose their parents too soon.
(I will always be here. I will be in everyone he loves. I am the one who holds him at night to keep him safe, the one who feeds him and shows him what love looks like. I will be everywhere after I go.)
I swear I never used to think this way: I have potential wives lined up who might be good for Steve in case I die — people who could love Henry so that he grows up strong if I’m not here. Jealousy snipped.
Wolves — by Laura Kasischke
Small, red mitten in the snow—
my heart, my baby, my terror:
At the side of the road in a moment, all of it is there,
though the baby is safe at home, and it isn’t
blood or his mitten in this blizzard. Even
in first grade I remember
I am not crying. I am pretending to cry, while I
watched the other first graders watch me
from the corner of my eye. My crying
was a pack of white wolves
in the woods, beautiful, immutable.
I was a liar, too. I remember
lying and crying at the same time. He pushed me. He called
me a name.
And the boy without guilt was sent
to the Office of Invented Crimes. I saw
his white shirt tail soaked with nervous sweat wagging
out of his pants as he left, but who
believes a boy?
And even when I left one day
in a blur of accusations
from my first husband, I felt
those wolves in my chest. I just
can’t take it anymore, I said.
Take what? Take what? he wanted to know, and I
wept into my hands, pretending, though
I wanted nothing from him. I wanted
only to be pure of him, and never
felt what I felt
about him, just
imagined the camera on me, what
my suffering would look like
from the distance of God
to a girl. For decades, the days
were long and full of stars. The nights were brief and false. I
imagine what love was, what
fear meant, and didn’t care. But now
I see this blood-spot, heart-stop
of a baby’s mitten in snow and all of it is there
in a moment at the side of the road—authentic, and primitive,
the terror like love, the love like terror—and wonder
where did that girl go, and wonder
who will punish her for what she wasn’t
now that I’m a mother?