NO ONE EVER TELLS YOU My hand to God, you will not care if you shit the table. You will be busy, so busy, throttled by the jaws of a crocodile on the banks of a blood-drenched river. Nursing—the sensation of a hot confession uncinching, unspooling, from the tightest pulley. And the relief, a sea of all that is cloudless and good. You will not be sleepless forever. One day, the child will be five, pad groggily out of her door at a reasonable hour, yawn as she climbs onto the toilet, and say, “Mama, can I tell you something funny?” And you will forgive her everything. You will marvel remembering your glistening pregnant libido—a banquet heaped on the floor of another life. Worry is a dark dotted line: it has respites but it always returns. Love is a ray. It has no respites. Your hair will leave you, with no warning and in stunning amounts—just when you think you have been restored to yourself. You will sweep thick paisleys of it from the shower drain with your foot. Though you avoided, delayed, or dreaded motherhood for most of your life, thinking you would choose art instead, you now discover there is no art in the world that compares to making a childhood. You will not get a weekend anymore. You will always forget to buy snowpants.
NESTING It’s February, and you’ve gone on your first cross-country trip without me. I stand in the dining room window, naked after a bath, skin still puckered—cycling through disaster scenarios. I twist in pregnant silhouette. In the melodrama of without. One life within me, one life without. My thoughts practice illegibility. One moment chicken scrawl, the next crosshatched monologue. Fixed beliefs loosen from their sockets. I hold the nested jadeite mixing bowls I found just today at an antique shop. I admire these perfect, unchipped vessels cradled soundly, one snugly within another. I hold the idea of nesting soundly, as the two of us began. I hold the idea of you, there, at the tip of the continent, image gripped by a poor connection. Mirror image of me. Come home, Mom, you cry, not yet old enough to comprehend that you are the one who is away. Just a few more days of this overly familiar precinct, this house mumbling to itself, the executive clicks of the oven— And each morning—so late, so easy!—tipping open without small thunder.
Debora Kuan is the author of two collections, Lunch Portraits and XING. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Poetry, The New Republic, Boston Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, ZYZZYVA, and other publications. She has received residencies at Yaddo, Macdowell, and the Santa Fe Art Institute, and has also worked on the editorial masthead of Poetry magazine and worked as a teaching artist for the 92nd Street Y. She is currently the poet laureate of Wallingford, CT, where she lives with her family.