Softer now—my heart and how it melts and pools inside my chest. That’s what happens when you have a child, they say. But still I feed the fear both in my sleep and in my waking hours. Someone is always next.
I cradle my sweet boy. The men inside my family all of them always dying someone is always next. I place my cheek against his nose to feel his small warm air—wake him up to watch him breathe. I gnaw upon the fear. It lodges itself in my teeth and with my tongue I move back and forth along the porcelain backs and try to pull it out. Flossing failure.
He is so beautiful, my boy. Beside me, on the bed, his feet resting on my lap. They’re clammy with the slightest fever, sticking to my skin. When I shift, he stirs and reaches one arm up above his head. I smell the spoiled milk on my shirt.
Adam tells me how I worry far too much—imagine if he knew I counted his breaths too. Late at night, or early morning, watching a chest rise and fall. The color of the lips and nailbeds, the pallor of the skin. Someone is always next.
The sweet men and all their sad and heavy hearts. Did my boy come out already broken? I need to weave the worth into his bones and wind the love into his veins. When he sleeps, I whisper in his ear, waiting for the words, like seeds, to plant themselves.
Can mothers stop the curses carried from the fathers to the sons?