Did I actually brew some kind of mystical, magical, improbable, miracle of thing called “kid” inside me, one that fluttered every time I drank a vanilla shake, or rearranged the walls of my ribs? Was I the master-keeper of the organs of life, nursing, nurturing, and winging it, clueless with a book and a prayer (and a whole lotta leaning on the neighbors downstairs?) Oh yeah; got the scars to prove it, and a husband that might still be traumatized by the event.
Was that me on the bed that very first time, lying back in secluded daylight, fingertips teaching that place that only seemed to resonate when I scanned the acres of posters on my walls of a man with coffee eyes, long, bronze hair, thick hands grasping a microphone, quadriceps-bursting blue jeans, who air-raid alarmed me or growled esoteric poetry, expiring me with inhaled breaths I’d never breathed before?
Was that me holding your hand? Was I really there watching you work so hard to breathe such little breaths, fighting to keep life in your cold fingers, stone calves, your words and wants and needs unknown, then walking away from us and I never knew if you were afraid and if we did everything we should have, knowing I should have been there better for you, man with a weak voice but stubborn to the end?
Was that me, holding horse, flowing through the pain with fierce determination, refusal to fail, and a few laughs between the minutes on the clock face, knowing there would be no other outcome but 45 minutes of thigh-erupting shaking pain, breath, flow, and some joy in accomplishment at the conclusion of the clock, new sash in hand, and probably not as much respect we hoped to gain from the master, but it was more than we had when we first walked in? Was that me, finally believing you, that the whole world wasn’t trying to hurt me?
Was that me, naked in New Jersey waves watching sunrise bleed through the layered veils of black sky, diamond stars having the sense to bow out and leave, unlike my heart that never knew why? La Mar heard confessions and tears, prayers, supplications and said scornfully, “Is that all you got?” So I drove home, some kind of empty pen. Was that me, I ask, every morning, again?
I am woman, therefore weak, because I’d been beaten, defeated. Look at what remains. Woman can be strong if she trains herself against the world, girds herself against weakness, builds walls and turns her back on happiness–it’s safer that way. She will survive and attain anything she wants as long as she is armored and angry and calls the shots. But has she the tools to survive the onslaught of life, the harrowing, the sorrow, the fleeting joy (how can it last?) because she is woman? Warrior, strong, because she is no tender reed who bends in the wind, but rooted like omnipotent, arm-stretching oak! But what about all the rest who carried, who came, who held, who lost, who forget all the strength she had–and will have again–because she is woman who sheds and cries and loses and grieves and gives and receives? Who dares love? What prayer for her, what talisman, what happy ending could she ever write?
Goddess, creator, destroyer, survivor, call down your gales; I’m not afraid of your pantheon! I do not know where I am going, and still do cry because I cannot undo all that I wrought, but with your help I will get there, one way and the other. I suppose I will never dehydrate for lack of tears to drink, but I will never lose because when I yield I cannot break.