Against the Air

By Julie Shavin

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Consider the embryo.
no limbs at first, oval,
translucent, watery comma
not a sapling stick,
more, its rain-soaked seed.

You said they were all boys,
—-those minuscule dead possibilities
swirling in a dark dysfunctional womb.
They had to be,
as females are stronger.

Not quite convinced,
—-I dreamed pink party dresses,
tutus, first solo rides
—–on two wheels, giddy swimmers
adoring the ocean, sun, sand.
I saw castle upon castle.

The first “birthed” in the john.
—-We looked for something with which
to fish it (him?) out – hospital’s orders.
Human, they said, and stuck me in a hallway
—-to bleed alone for half a day.

The second time, my mother visited,
—–but was uncomfortable with such despair,
———could not gather herself
fully into a chair.
—-I sent her away
she thanked me.

The third time I adopted the basement
——for weeks, avoiding light, sound, solace.
I had to alone with ….my son?
——-He was the best of company,
both of us leaving, leaving.

My dead sons are three.
—–Sometimes I ponder them shrimp-like,
——pulsing, suddenly still.
But mostly, I think of them as trees,
—–no longer seed, but thick with trunk.
Leaves unfurl: hands, roots, their feet,
—–their maturings secret as concentric rings.

I know my boys best when branches
—-bend in the breeze –
not wholly here, not wholly there,
—-but their tiny issue in the cosmos,
somewhere –
in the air, on the air, against the air.

Julie Shavin

Author’s Note:

“Against the Air” was written after 3 miscarriages in five years. I had always been haunted as to the gender of the babies I had lost; years later, my husband informed me they must have all been boys. I had a chronic illness, and had had to choose between career and family. I chose family, but building it was not so easy. He felt that females would have survived, despite my body’s dysfunction.