BY YASMIN BELKHYR
My aunt miscarried four times,
and after each one, she took me to Chinatown
in the city, and we would watch the gloved men gut
fish after fish after fish as if it meant something.
She carried all the ultrasounds for years after,
with names and the expected dates of birth scribbled
on the backs, and on the train ride home, she’d clutch
the bag of headless fish close to her body, and softly,
rub her finger over the worn leather of her wallet,
where the faint memories of life gathered dust inside.
My uncle used to burn hundreds of matches
on the front porch, and the first time we came home,
he stared at my aunt’s stomach and stumbled backwards,
something immense, something too big to understand, to describe,
quaking inside of him. He stopped burning matches
and started burning flowers, instead.
My aunt carries him too; in the way she walks,
stooped over, with this gentle sorrow pulling her
into the floor like sand.
Salma, May 17th 2003
Laila, November 29th 2006
Sophia, January 4th 2007
Hanna, August 23rd 2011
Four seasons for four daughters;
every day, dawn is the time for grief,
dawn is the moment where my aunt can finally sob
under the weight of the world, a 34-year-old Atlas
with a home empty of children, and a body that deemed
her unfit; I have grown into a family of grief, a life
in which mourning and morning mean the same thing.
She said once: I am a shell, and you can hear
the ocean sputter and cough in my bones; I swear,
I would swim, if I weren’t already sinking.