At nineteen, nothing was closer to me than the fear
of it, the thought of it, the psych ward where I slept with it
huddled around me. And then my daughter came and took that
dream away from me. No escape hatch into the sky.
During labor the nurse listened to her heartbeat, steady
as a train. “Happy baby,” she said, but I thought strong.
Because she had not chosen to be here but would live
anyway. Because she showed me in the small hours
of the morning how to stand in my death to bring her through
to the place where I would be forever bereft of her.
Pain is the gift. Pain most of all where it haunts
a perfect happiness. Wait for happiness to settle
at your feet like a cat and wait your whole life.
My daughter brings me a book to read and we laugh
at the pictures. I smell the top of her head,
sweat and fruit. In the corner of the room he stands,
waiting for us. Welcome, I say. And, not yet.