In the expectant hush of Christmas Eve,
your father and I walk strade strung with stars
to the spotlit Forum, shambling heart
beat by a hundred generations’ passing.
We speak to you in utero, novice of il cuore and its frailty,
bow toward your nubbish ears, slight bones just set so they might ring
with talk of ribboned trinkets, pizzelle and almond cookies
and, long, long from now, when you might walk the Via dei Fori Imperiali,
voluptuous with a child for which you might dream.
Our words rise against
the Coliseum’s arches, crumbling these nineteen centuries,
its builders’ families scattered beyond identity. What remains apart
from chiseled stone and skeletons stacked below the city?
Of us: paper and ink; soon, a baby—to whom we’ll gift this vignette and the falling,
rising city, story of our middle years to become story of your beginning.
Mezzanotte bells ricochet through our speech, clangor
of birth, death, union, destruction, hours passing
to ages—and, as suddenly, shiver to nothing.
We Learn Fear
Two years, I slept and woke with your dream-talk
wending its way through the wall beside my bed:
a wail, a dozen footfalls, a hollow door only and all
between us. Now, the wombed baby
is weeks from first caterwaul, the nursery hers,
and you upstairs, in the attic suite.
I strain at the monitor’s static nothing
this first time you’ve been beyond my ears’ tending:
no weeping or talk to Teddy, not a sheet settling.
But I mind each whine of wind in the eaves,
each joist-pop of the house settling,
the ah-wooof a distant coyote,
while you, not so long born from me,
but a year done with nursing—you, cheek to my hip,
grip on my pant-leg your hours of waking—
you accept this solitary sleep, enclosed
in that garret, a creaking climb above me.
We learn fear, and you have yet to conjure its trappings:
crimson eyes at the sill, closet knob turning,
ghouls, thieves, a mother who doesn’t quicken
and cleave to your call—all beyond imagining.
A love-shabbied bear and my warmth lingering
on your bedding are yet enough,
and little as you’ll ever need.
Sundays were a summer stream;
our bed, a raft drifting.
We lay amidst the buzz of green things,
forget-me-nots heavy with sipping bees,
a frenzy of pairing in the heat—
then slept, burning light with dreams.
Now, we are spun and dashed in the torrent
of your fitful rest and sudden waking.
We must choose in minutes of passing peace:
slumber enough to bog our thoughts, sex enough to perceive
what will be left incomplete when you scream.
We’ve foundered among the rocks and eddies,
so tired we cannot turn ourselves to the bank’s safety—
a sort of tired that, if someone had foretold,
we would not have believed: tired approaching old.
But sometimes, when the church bells have ceased,
and sleep as we once supposed all babies must sleep.
Then, our breath tremendous in the silence,
I find what I knew of youth
in your father’s dark curls and unmarred hands,
June’s clear light catching along veins muscled to skin,
ridge of ribs, hollow of stomach,
and we aren’t of an age:
a wrist turned just so might draw us
back to the leafy edge, its drowsy current.
Then, I speak beyond the coo and hush
your disquiet demands: his name, your father’s name.
And though it must ring through your sleep,
you are not jealous, not afraid
of this mother who would deny your force and the gathering pace.
No, for you allow us a lost hour,
then sing us awake.
Anemone Beaulier’s poetry has appeared or is forthcoming on Poetry Daily and in The Briar Cliff Review, Cimarron Review, Jabberwock Review, Main Street Rag, The Pinch, Poet Lore, Prairie Schooner, Salamander, The Southern Review, Valparaiso Poetry Review, and elsewhere.