House of the Burning Prairie Come into my house, let me tell you a story.

And Then He Was

The cup that should’ve been mine by virtue of having been born female was placed out of reach for many years. I found out before I married that my path to motherhood would not be any easy one. My body had betrayed me, it didn’t function in the way that evolution had designed it to. But I didn’t worry about it at first; John and I still had a lot of growing up to do so we delayed trying for kids.

After 6 years of marriage we decided the time was as good as it ever would be so we tried. Nothing. I remembered what the doctor had told me but thought that my desire to have a child would be so strong that I could bend my body to my will. I was wrong. There followed years of treatments. Drugs that made me sick and moody, shots that made my skin and muscle burn as if they had been injected with fire, tests that filled my womb with dye and bathed me in x-rays. Three years passed and my womb bore no fruit but disappointment and sadness.

Then, during our brief sojourn in Chicago, a fragile ray of hope broke through the darkness. A newly minted doctor, also named Jennifer, wanted to try a new treatment. Another drug, I had my doubts but I was willing to try. The pills were huge and made me violently ill at times. I would’ve given up but the need to have a child made me push myself beyond my endurance.

It was worth it, all the pain, and all the sickness. My body began functioning the way it was designed to; I may be the only woman to take joy in cramps. Periods! Huzzah!

In early July of 2001, I began to feel things I never had experienced before. I was nauseated, my breasts hurt. A girl at work told me I might be pregnant so I stopped and got a pack of tests on the way home. I took it, I peed on the stick. There were two lines!

The next morning I took the second test in the pack, the second line was now faint. I began cramping severely and bleeding profusely later that day, at work. I called the doctor, but nothing could be done so I stayed at work. The next day I felt too sick, too pained, to go to work but I had no choice, I would’ve been fired if I hadn’t gone in anyway. (This is why I know that this country doesn’t value women or children.)

We watched the July 4th fireworks from our dining room window in our apartment because I was too weak from blood loss to venture outside. I had been to the doctor; he told me that the miscarriage had been complete. We had to wait six weeks before trying again. We dutifully waited our six weeks and then went at it like it was our job.

The second miscarriage nearly broke me. The ultrasound told the horrific tale, no embryo, but my body hadn’t expelled everything. I checked into the hospital to have the remains of the pregnancy, and my hopes, removed. Before I went back to work on Monday I called my boss. I wanted no flowers, no cards, no tears, no hugs. I wanted to forget that I had ever been pregnant in the first place. I knew that one gesture, one kindness, would send me flying into a million jagged pieces, human shrapnel. They mostly respected my wishes and I began to settle back into my routine, damaged but steady.

The next day was September 11, 2001.

My personal grieving was subsumed in the national paroxysm of shock and grief and horror. Life felt precarious and dangerous. Too dangerous to bring a child into the world. I drew that desire back inside and didn’t even breathe it to myself.

Months passed as months do. We began to try again. Winter began to melt into spring, new life was blooming in a changed world and new life bloomed in a changed me.

I was more cautious, more reticent. We told very few people in those first months. My boss was the first person outside immediate family that I told, and only because I was now considered high-risk and had to go to the doctor every week for a while.

My sister was also pregnant at the same time. And she had been through all of it before so she was very supportive. I’m very grateful to her. (She had my niece 6 weeks before we had our son.)

We found out we were having a boy because after so many shocks and twists on the way, I wasn’t in the mood for any more surprises. We had a due date of December 8th. I knew that due dates were guesses and that babies keep their own schedules, regardless of our plans. We went to the classes, we read the books, we watched the shows, we prepared ourselves as much as we could.

I still had the due date in my head and didn’t expect to have a baby nearly a month early. But some part of me knew, some cavewoman instinct kicked in. In mid-November I went into a frenzy of nesting. I washed everything, packed my hospital bag, made Hubs paint the nursery.

In the darkwatch early morning of November 18, 2002, the contractions began in earnest. I had been having contractions for two days and didn’t recognize them as such. It wasn’t anywhere near my due date! (I’m an intelligent woman, I swear.)

I had been sleeping on the sectional for a few weeks because I couldn’t get comfortable in the bed so I waddled back to the bedroom and tried to wake the hubs. “Honey, we’re having a baby today,” I said to him at about 4 in the morning.

He grumbled a bit, said OK, and rolled back over. A sense of calm inevitability had settled over me and I trudged back to my couch. About an hour later John tore into the room and breathlessly asked, “Did you say we’re having a baby today?” I told him we were indeed. He saw that I was calm and calmed down as well. He decided to eat breakfast and take a shower. (Something told me not to eat anything but I had already taken my shower.)

My water broke rather dramatically while he was in the bathroom. That’s when the contractions began to hurt. Chaos ensued. One frantic phone call to the maternity ward (Hubs) later and we were on our way to the hospital. Hubs wanted to drop me at the ER but I was having none of it. I refused to be separated from his side and walked the long corridor to the maternity ward.

The nurse at the desk tried to put me into triage to evaluate me to see if I really was in labor. Hubs told her that my water had broken; I was in a place beyond words. Instinct had again taken over; ration and reason were pushed aside. I needed to get that baby out of me, RIGHT THEN. I could only breathe and growl, I looked at her with death in my eyes. Her eyes widened and she said, “Let’s get you in a labor room.”

I labored for about 6 hours without pain relief. Finally around noon, they gave me an epidural. I immediately fell in love with the anesthesiologist and asked him to marry me. He just smiled and patted my hand. I don’t think I was the first laboring woman to propose.

Hubs’ boss showed up some time after that because he didn’t really believe us. Good thing he got there after the epidural or he would’ve been subject to a profanity-laced tirade the like of which the world has never heard. Bastard didn’t even bring flowers.

After approximately an eternity (5 hours) of no progress, the baby and I both went into distress. My doctor was hesitant to push a C-section, so he said we could labor longer if we wanted but he really recommended the surgery. I couldn’t take any more so I agreed. Within moments a paper was shoved into my hands and I signed it. Moments after that my gurney was being pushed at a dead run down the hall.

And then I was alone with my doctor and the nurses and my new fiancé, the epidural man. They were very quiet but focused and driven. I could feel their tension and I knew my child and I were in danger. Finally, Hubs was brought in and sat down on a stool next to my head. I felt and saw nothing and heard only brisk and efficient voices, my own breathing, and reassuring words from Hubs. Then the most blessed sound rang out, my son’s outraged cry at being subjected to such an indignity! I got to see him, briefly, and then Hubs and our son were quickly escorted out while the doctor and nurses put me back together.

A sense of urgency and foreboding still hung heavy in the OR. My child was safe but I wasn’t out of danger yet. I remember cold enveloping me, as if I was slipping underneath icy waters. I began to shiver violently and the anesthesiologist called for blankets and heaters. He covered as much of me as he could without violating the sterile field. And then I lost consciousness.

I awoke in a recovery room still covered in blankets and still as cold as the grave. My mother-in-law and brother-in-law were waiting in my room when they wheeled me in. Later they told me that they were scared to death when they saw me. My skin was grey and there was no light in my eyes. I believe that I came so close to death as to touch its hem. But I fought like hell, my doctor and nurses fought like hell, and here I am on the occasion of my beautiful son’s 12th birthday.

So when I hear people complain about western medicine and “big pharma” and the overuse of C-sections, I just shake my head. In another century, without all those things, my child and I would not have survived his birth. So, thank you western medicine, thank you to my doctor and nurses, thank you hospital, thank you modern anesthetics.

And most of all, thank you to my son. Thank you for making me your mom.

Last

It was the time of last things,

The last night, the last conversation,

The last kisses, the last embrace,

The last stories told, the last secrets whispered.

 

It was never built to last,

The promises made, the vows broken,

The love given, the love taken,

The foolish hopes, the hopeless dreams.

 

It was she alone, at last,

The weight of guilt, the pain of loss,

The need of him, the lack of him,

The hot tears shed, the heart unhardened.

 

It was she, in the end, who would last.

Only A Dream

Pull me from my wild dance,

Still my head as my hair whips,

Catch me as I fall into your arms,

Hold me as I tremble at your touch.

 

Lace your long fingers through mine,

Caress the bird-bones of my hands,

Kiss the inside of my wrist,

As I touch your whiskered chin.

 

Run your fingers along the valley of my spine,

Press me to your chest, to your heart,

Trace a line of kisses across my shoulder,

Feel the pulse in my throat with your tongue.

 

I undo you so I can touch your broad chest,

I live there, I whisper in your ear.

Lay your hand on my pounding heart,

Tell me that you live there.

 

I give you all that I am,

Take all that you feel you can,

I move your hand to my breast,

Arching to meet your touch, your mouth.

 

Sweep me up in your strong arms,

Then lay me in your bower,

Give me wine, hold the glass to my mouth,

And then kiss it from my lips.

 

Move to take what I can give you,

Spread my thighs with your knees,

As you press your weight upon me

You disappear, like a phantom at sunrise.

 

Were you a dream? Too good to be true?

You were a wish, ephemeral and swift,

A fast-burning flame, bright and brief,

Oh how short forever turned out to be.

Fall in Love

Autumn is my favorite season. It’s a magical time of transition, from the long, hot days of summer to the long, cold nights of winter. Mother Earth gives up her bounteous harvest and cloaks herself in red, gold, and orange. Early on, still warm days give way to cooler nights. The echoes of summer still hang in the air, while winter’s dormant dreaming lies months in the future. Soon, the faint smell of wood smoke will perfume the air and bright leaves will carpet the ground.

October, my favorite month of my favorite season, brings pumpkin patches and pony rides, hay mazes and haunted houses. Samhain approaches, when the veil between the worlds is thinnest. Faeries and spirits are said to roam our world that night. Though we no longer believe in faeries and ghosts, we send our children (and often ourselves) disguised, to mum for treats with the promise of no tricks in return, in honor of the night.

November will bring the first real taste of winter’s chill as well as my father’s birthday. The month also brought my son to me, early. And Thanksgiving. This year, for Thanksgiving, we’re bringing my sweet mother-in-law home for the day. Truly something for which to give thanks.

The season will draw to a close with preparations for the winter breathing down our necks. Cracks will be filled to keep out the cold, sneaky fingers of winter winds. Chimneys will be swept and firewood piled high. Coats and blankets will come out of closets and chests. New coats will be purchased for children who grow up too fast for their mama’s liking.

Summer romance is fine I suppose, but true love belongs to autumn.

 

 

 

 

Muse

I am the secret you keep, the lie you tell,

the name whispered in the dark.

I am your escape, your adventure,

the streak of red against your grey life.

 

There are no secrets, no lies between us,

you’ve told more than you intended.

I can be your refuge, your strength,

the hand you reach for in the night.

 

Yet you flinch, shrink back in fear,

like a burned child, scared of the fire.

Have courage in your heart, in your mind,

a good woman stands waiting.

Still

The man’s kiss still lingers on my lips,

His rough whiskers still brush against my skin.

My hands still caress his soft hair,

My pulse still races from his hands on my body.

His mouth is still warm against my breast,

His scent still infuses my brain.

My back still arches in pleasure,

My breath still catches in my throat.

 

I still dream of lying in his arms,

His long legs still wrapped around me.

Every nerve is still raw, still open,

Still wanting his touch.

My heart still aches from missing him,

He still inhabits my thoughts.

I still wonder if I mean as much to him,

And I still doubt it.

Pas de Deux

They circled one another in a delicate, years-long dance. Centimeter by centimeter, they edged closer and closer. One day they touched, and it was glorious!

She was surprised at his height, but pleased. Short men made her feel defenseless. Men tall enough to loom over her made her feel sheltered, protected. Wrapping her arms around his neck hadn’t been easy—she’d had to stand en pointe. What she had wanted to do was wrap herself, arms and legs, around him and feel his lips on hers. Instead, she embraced him and the power of that embrace would live with her forever.

His strong arms enfolded her, pressed her into him, and the world stopped. For those stolen moments, nobody else existed. The two of them stood alone in their tiny world, its only denizens. He released her from his arms and body and the larger world around them snapped back into place. She was shaken and put her hand on his arm, both to gain steadiness on unsteady feet and to continue touching him.

They sat and talked for hours. She loved the sound of his voice, low and melodic. Time began a strange dance of its own. Had she been talking to him for only minutes or had days passed since that first embrace? But time righted itself when he made motions to leave. A slight panic set in, she wanted more of him, more of his touch, more of his voice. And then he embraced her again.

The second embrace was as potent as the first; the strength of such a gentle man shook her again. Loathe to end the embrace, she leaned into him and he put his arm around her shoulders. She laid her head against him and he laid his cheek on her hair. She laced her tiny fingers with his long, deft ones. There, tucked against him, she felt at peace. His touch felt like home.

When their time had ended, as all such times do, he held her hand and led her to her car. One last embrace before parting, she stood flat on her feet, wrapped her arms around his waist, and laid her ear against his chest. She could hear and feel the drumbeat of his heart. Being in his arms felt natural and good; they had fallen so easily into this dance!

Later, she was most pleased to discover that he had felt the same way! Her pulse quickened at his words and she told him her truth. She was free to be with him; her marriage bonds weren’t shackles, they were pliable and strong, and built to bend and dance with her movements.

But he could not be with her. A decision had to be made since their relationship couldn’t move forward; they decided to remain simply friends. She wanted him so badly, in her bed, in her body, but losing that possibility was small compared to the heartbreak that would follow if she had to stop knowing him.

Being just his friend again, she wondered, how would that look? How would that feel? Would she be able to touch him, even a little? Could they embrace? She didn’t know, but she suspected not. They both had such earth-shaking reactions when in each other’s arms that she feared to be so bold again.

The future was unclear, but she knew that in order to be happy he had to be in her life. And she would do whatever it took, make any sacrifice needed, and stifle her deepest desires, to keep him there.

Corazón

Treacherous heart, it lurches

and hammers at the sound of your voice,

and aches at the sight of your face.

 

My blood thrums and purrs at your touch,

driven through veins by my engine heart.

Ignited by the spark in your hands.

 

I am never cold, this flaming heart

is the blast furnace at my core,

warming all that surrounds it.

 

Arias and laments burst forth

from my singing heart, spiraling in

an angels’ and demons’ chorus.

 

The taste of your skin on my tongue,

salt and sweet, spins my dancing heart

in mad pirouettes and arabesques.

 

The devil’s heart beats in my breast,

betraying me, dooming me.

Would that I could live on without it!

She

He looked over as she got out of the crumpled bed, her naked body gleaming white in the moonlight. She had left the curtains open again, she always did. Maybe this was a stage and the audience was out there in the night. He didn’t understand her, never had, but he couldn’t stay away when she called him. Tonight was one such night; her low, smoky voice had sent a shiver down his spine. She never said her name, she didn’t have to, he just knew.

Two words: come over. And he did, every time. Dates were broken, meetings were interrupted, lives were put on hold every time she called. Every time. She wasn’t a seductive woman; she was seduction, predation, destruction. The whole of his heart had been ripped out and his brain had become unmoored. He was lost and he loved it.

The sex was incredible, but that wasn’t it. They moved in languid concert, always anticipating what the other wanted, needed. When they were joined he knew he had her full attention, but the moment after they both came, she would roll off the bed and become a mystery once again. He rose out of the destroyed bed, sitting on the edge gathering his thoughts. He dressed and left without a word–she wanted it that way.

Shaking his head at his own folly, he got in his car and started his long drive back home. The smell of sex, the smell of her filled the car while he drove. He often thought about moving to her city, but he knew it would do no good. He had mentioned it once, moving to be near her. A look of fury tinged with fear played across her usually inscrutable face. No, you shouldn’t do that, she said, almost in a panic. For the rest of their time together she kept looking at the door, like a wild animal primed to escape a cage.

Every time he would swear to himself that it was the last time, but he was powerless when she called. One day he would change his number and not tell her, but not today, not tomorrow, someday.

Baptism-Part Two

Hiding from view,

a deep, green gully our refuge,

He kissed me, I kissed him,

a first for us both.

 

Our mouths open,

tongues timidly exploring,

Wet, hot, pulses racing,

over too soon.

 

Fleeing, scared,

furious pedaling,

Flushed cheeks and

a guilty conscience.

 

Dry, infrequent kisses

of family were no preparation.

Awkward hugs, faces turned,

scant affection, no emotion.

 

Many kisses from many mouths

followed the first.

On buses, in cars, in back rooms,

and darkened dens and bedrooms.

 

I kissed their mouths in summer,

under a merciless sun,

and in the hot, still nights,

damp with sweat and lust.

 

I kissed their mouths in fall,

under the bleachers at games,

on walks in parks, leaves underfoot,

furtive kisses in stolen moments.

 

I kissed their mouths in winter,

under mistletoe indoors, and outside

steaming the windows of their cars,

dreading the knock we knew would come.

 

I kissed their mouths in spring,

under the blooming redbuds,

in a reborn world we embraced,

shuffling off winter’s chill.

 

That first kiss lit a fire.

One that’s never extinguished,

never banked, only stoked.

The flames baptized me, inside and out.