The Boiler

Anna Lowe Weber

HOW DO I BRAID IT INTO MY VERY BEING, CHILD? 

Mornings, your hair in wild ropes.
Your sweet colt limbs, the way they
wrap and tangle, seek warmth
in my own arms and legs which always seem
too clumsy, too pale by comparison.  My 
stodgy adult body, and you, brown berry child,
pressed into it.  What is the countdown
for how long this will last?  Another year?
A week?  Time is always ripping you away
from me like the old cliche— a bandaid pulled 
so slowly that at first, it might seem insignificant.
But here are the bits of skin and hair that 
lift away with the bandage.  Here I twinge,
grit my teeth.  One morning you stop
asking me, “rub my belly.”  Your body 
is yours, and I know, I know— it always 
has been.  Whatever ownership I felt 
was wrong, even when you housed yourself
in me, your tadpole speck eyes, poppy-seeds 
learning to blink.  Be Mine— I penned 
valentines to you.  But you weren’t—
not really.  Now your voice rises in impatience
some mornings.  Demands are made for 
breakfast, a show about ponies.  You sit 
on the couch, a foot taller overnight. 
And when I stare, you are three going on
thirty.  What? you ask.  I sit too.  
Your body, burning.  Buzzing 
with growth even as I shrink away
to nothing.  To a withered seed, some day
you’ll bury.


YOU’VE NOW SPENT THE MORNING

Writing and deleting the same first five lines
of a poem that will never, you can tell, declare itself.
It was about your daughter’s beauty,
or the decision to try for a second child.
At one point it was about a chipmunk,
the way the cat carried it into the house
with such satisfaction, such pride that
you felt bad shaking it from her jaw,
a low-pitched half-growl rising from her throat or yours
or the critter’s— it was hard to tell as you gave
the poor guy another go at the whole thing—
its small, useless life. Released it back outside
where October’s leaves plastered the sidewalk
like tiny yellow slickers or post-it notes
dropped from the sky, greeting cards welcoming
a seasonal change you’d been ignoring for months.
But who writes a poem about that? The cat
was sulking when you returned inside,
her morning ruined by your goodwill.
Why not allow her the plaything anyway?
Like your heart is such a good Samaritan.
Like your heart isn’t doling out tiny cruelties
and missiles of spite and jealousy daily.
But at least the chipmunk lived to see another hour—
tell yourself that and settle in to write that poem
about beauty— the way your daughter’s hair
has a sheen to it not unlike that of a grackle.
The way when a stranger stops you on the street
to comment on it— her prettiness, that is—
your sick heart sings with gratitude, as if
her loveliness is something you might claim
as your own.

_____________________________

Anna Lowe Weber currently lives in Huntsville, Alabama, where she teaches creative writing for the University of Alabama in Huntsville. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Rattle, Ninth Letter, the Iowa Review, and Salamander, among other journals.