by Meg Reynolds
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Placenta: In a bounce of sunlight, I’m flashed back to her birth. I remembered the placenta like an appointment that slipped my mind. I don’t know how I could have forgotten it. / Once Minnie was out of my body, I ignored everything else, the warnings the doctors gave before they pushed down on my lower belly to encourage the placenta out. I was listening to Minnie’s feather-gentle cries when it slid from me, her jellyfish twin. / They showed it to me, lifted it up like a wing, redder than red, a holy thing. I said, “Jesus Christ.” It startled me. What if when Mary Magdalene rolled back the stone and found this instead of an empty shroud? Discarded heart, hothouse orchid, mad woman’s handbag. / Slippery, fat, vibrant, stretched in the doctor’s hands, it went purple and transparent before they wheeled it away on their little cart, a fading diva swooning out of the room. Minnie’s house collapsed, sent for burning, how many ways can I say it? / Lead balloon, circus tent, a wilted Ferris wheel, fruit and tree at once. Brandon has a tree of life on his shoulder. When he’s on top of me, I gnarl my fingers in its branches and rattle the tree. We wound together and shook our daughter from us, shook her and this—an organ swollen and fed on my voluminous blood. / I didn’t eat it, this loose pomegranate. I’d been emptied at last. There was no undoing it. And I didn’t take it home to be tucked like a nettled hen in the back corner of the freezer. Minnie’s red shadow had held close for months. Time to let it go, let the light hit our daughter. She now fills the rooms with cries and a small dark lengthens behind her.
Stay: I take three deep breaths to the rhythm of the breast pump. It croaks and columns my nipples, strangles milk from me in thimbles. / This is the scale: the ounce, the milliliter, the drop my daughter takes on her tongue hungrily, becoming more angry with what I can’t produce, screaming into my breast like it’s a cave. / There’s a form of meditation where you focus on increasingly small details. You discover a place by its shadows and dust mites. You might not have to travel anywhere if you can remain where you are more completely, seeing further into a single room, the firework of its daily alterations. / And my daughter is a small house, all constantly shifting, tiny breaths like the hush of sand being dragged into furrows. I’m told constantly to pay attention, take in every minute. This time, where she is soft and tucked as a peony travels away from me with speed. I repeat aloud in the apartment empty of anyone but us: don’t skip ahead to when you’re certain she thrives and survives you. Stay here. Stay here. Stay here.
Synesthesia: Mothering brings on a forced synesthesia. Greek for “perceiving together,” the brain of a synesthete blurs the boundaries of the senses so some can feel music or taste color. / When I was pregnant, I drank sleep in long, blue draughts. Now she’s here and my eyes harden into teeth, devour her with long looks. Gwendolyn Brooks called it the “gobbling mother-eye.” Minnie’s book wails, “[I]’ll eat you up, [I] love you so!” / When Minnie cries, it slips under my skin, a soft voltage, a shirt of nettles lifting me from sleep. / My brain is rewiring, constructing a delicate, electric architecture, around her, through her, connections so tangled that barriers fail and I am transformed in her closeness. When she drinks, I feel her chest-heavy thirst. I relax when Brandon strokes her hair. There will be traces of her, genetic remnants, for decades. So I am a mother, a fresh synesthete, a willing chimera, more and less myself than I’ve ever been. Love is too small a word.
Meg Reynolds is a poet, artist, and teacher from New England. Her work has appeared in The Missing Slate, Mid-American Review, Fugue Journal, The Offing, Hobart, and Inverted Syntax, among others, as well as the anthologies Monster Verse: Poems Human and Inhuman, The Book of Donuts, and With You: Withdrawn Poems of the #MeToo Movement. Her second book, Does the Earth, is forthcoming from Harpoon Review Books in fall 2022. She lives in Burlington, Vermont, with her family.