POSTPARTUM

A POEM BY JOELLE A. CHASSE

I named my daughter Eve

hoping she’d always be curious,

that she’d always reach for the highest branch.

I imagined her all outstretched fingers,

quivering anticipation,

bravery that came from nowhere

and would be returned the same.

 

I named my daughter Lilith,

night creature, screech owl,

endowing her with cat’s claws

and a string of pearls.

She was born wailing, eyes wide open

and I thought thank God, I’ve gotten my wish.

 

But I balked the first time she asked me

about heaven, torment, ships lost at sea,

about the angels that floated

around the mobile above her crib.

 

I held her through croup in the steam of the bathroom —

The sink-drain was a mouth, agape in shock.

I couldn’t change its expression.

Running water choked it.

 

My daughter asked me wordlessly with bleating breath,

her chin trembling like water over rock.
Her hunger was unmatched

by my ability for answer,

and before she had spoken her first word

I was already telling her over and over:

stop asking questions, stop stretching.

 

But my daughter Eve,

my daughter Lilith,

she never did listen –

 

She let the steam of the shower

envelope her like the dampness of a swamp,

and when she stood for the first time

on shaky new-born legs,

pulling herself out of the water,

 

she already stood three heads taller than me.

Standing on nothing, coming from nowhere —

returning the same.

 

Artwork © Emma Harvey

Emma SapersteinComment