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by Rochelle Jewel Shapiro

As the line dips lower, lower,
on the graph, I, the mother, understand
clichés such as the heart plunges.

My son watches me through the glass window of the booth.
He looks the same as always—large brown eyes,
brown curly hair, except
for the big black headphones.

The walls swim in blue.
I am drowning.
Sound rises in bubbles
as if from the mouth of a fish.

What is the doctor saying?
He speaks of loss—
mine, my son's, not his.
I pay at the desk.

The receptionist says,
"Your son must not see you cry."
I didn't know I was crying.
I imagined the ocean rolling towards my eyes,
the salt, the brine in my throat.

In the car, my son asks, "How did this happen? Why?"

I can't answer. Was it something I did?
A cigarette, a glass of wine
while his cells were still dividing in my sea?
No one can tell me whether the loss will go deeper,
taking away the banter of friends,
the honk of the oncoming car.

First published: Essential Love: poems about mothers and fathers, daughters and sons
Ed. by Ginny Conners, Grayson Books, 2000


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