My Daughter's Body
If you saw her, you would think she was beautiful.
Strangers stop me on the street to say it.
If they talk to her they see that this beauty
Means nothing. Their sight shifts to pigeons
On the sidewalk. Their eye contact becomes
As poor as hers. They slip away slowly,
With varying degrees of grace. I never know
How much to say to explain the heartbreak.
Sometimes, I tell them. More often,
I remain silent. As her smile sears me, I hold
Her hand all the way home from the swings.
The florist hands her a dying rose and she holds it
Gently without ripping the petals like she does
To the tulips that stare at us with their insipid faces,
Pretending that they can hold my sorrow
In their outstretched cups because I knew them
Before I knew grief. They do not understand that
They are ruined for me now. I planted five hundred
Bulbs as she grew inside of me, her brain already
Formed by strands of our damaged DNA
Or something else the doctors don’t understand.
After her bath, she curls up on me for lullabies—
The only time during the day that her small body is still.
As I sing, I breathe in her shampooed hair and think
Of the skeletons in the Musée de Préhistoire
In Les Eyzies. The bones of the mother and baby
Lie in a glass case in the same position we are
In now. They were buried in that unusual pose,
Child curled up in the crook of the mother’s arm.
The archaeologists are puzzled by the position.
It doesn’t surprise me at all. It would be so easy
To die this way—both of us taking our last breaths
With nursery rhymes on our open lips
And the promise of peaceful sleep.
by Jennifer Franklin
from The Boston Review