by Sara Moore Wagner
I’m tucking her in for her nap in her little bed,
surrounded by fluffy animals, bears and dogs
with sparkle eyes. She clutches the blanket
my sister made for her before she was born,
each corner stitch so precise.
My daughter says what does it mean
to die? And I say it’s like being born.
She says will I be back in your belly? Back as an egg?
Will you carry me again, will I come out in your arms
like I did? And I want to say yes, but I say listen,
birdy, it’s like this: A flower comes up out of the ground
like the head of a child. It’s cut out or it falls back
into the dirt in spring—and she stops me to ask
about the cutting off, how if something is cut off
it can still live. How if a man can take a gun to the base
of so many people in the street, just like a gardener
takes a clipper to a bush, if we plant those bodies
again—where have they gone, mother. I am asking you
so I can give my daughter an answer that makes any
sense. And will her sky, will her womb be this American
sky, this American womb we were both birthed into.
Even now the teasel is choking out blossoms. Even now
the ivy snakes around her unused swingset. Even now
she’s got both arms around my neck and I’d like to believe
I might never leave this bed or her with her head
still wet with bath, so ready for the kind of sleep
you wake from. It’s our job to teach them how
to let go. How to let go. What happens
if I won’t let go.
Last updated September 19, 2022