Poems by Felicia Zuniga

It is February and I have been pregnant forever

 

Winter bears down but the baby stays put, he hangs on tight as a migraine
No plans to roam outside in this cold, he holes up in his pot of fluid
I incubate us inside the house, as the blizzard breaks records and entombs everything
Outside the window, I watch the storm’s outbursts, while you stay undercover

He is our first; suspicious of us and this snow globe we live in
He monitors weather warnings, scowling as they say more flakes will fall
When I decide to step outside, he squeezes his eyes shut against the burn of white
Perhaps he wanted to be greeted by heat and honeysuckles instead

I coerce him into a walk and ask, “Do you feel the quiet?” Can you smell the sparkle?
Outside, all is barren. Inside, I am filled to the brim with him
We stumble through snow humps as my bones become numb
He tunnels deep inside, swearing not to surface till spring

I coax him with six sticky sweet Medjool dates daily, hunks of plump pineapple
Where I eat everything including the core, washed down with red raspberry leaf tea
I try to convince him we feast on tropical fruit, surrounded by starfish and seashells
He retaliates by propelling his feet so deep in my belly, I spew expensive snacks

At night, I stuff myself into a pillow fort, wrenched up on my left, while my hips spasm
I cloak him in creamy wool blankets and he plays, satisfied with the sweaty dark
He starts his nightly swim, sometimes he’s too worked up and his hiccups begin
My belly bobbing with each burst from his lungs until dawn

Every morning I rise hopeful, wondering if today he will emerge
Focusing on my feet as I navigate ice sheets on the way to doctor appointments
They poke and knock at your door but you keep it shut, ignoring all visitors
We hear the solid thwomp of your heart and know you must be stowed away

It is February and I have been pregnant forever

 


  

Afterbirth

 

No one will tell me how many stitches
Are binding my insides together
A running stitch, internal and external
Embroidered inside me where I was once whole
Now I’m spun with black thread
Hostile knots knitted to hidden flesh

*

They say it takes a village, to raise a child
For us, having a child, raised a village
An underground labyrinth teeming with cinnamon scones and witch hazel
Gift baskets branch out on our kitchen table
Packages and people surround us, propping us up with walls of support
So we don’t collapse under the weight of this new life

*

We’ve moved inside, the exterior world no longer concerns us
Only the life we created inside the four walls of our home
The rooms where we now sleep, eat and sway with him
He is the sun we rise to and the moon we rest under
The basement bedroom has become our vacation hotspot
My husband and I take turns kissing goodbye
Before floating down the dark flight of stairs to dissolve

*

In baby class, we go round the circle
Exchanging nap tips and apps like scraps of gold
How to make them sleep is the Holy Grail
We all have black eyes and snag only broken minutes of shut-eye per day
Everyone is pleased to hear they’re not alone; we suffer together
Taking turns tucking babies into wraps and comparing peak crying times

*

He is at the breast again, his favourite position
The books say that mothers should be comfortable, but I never am
Back hunched over in pain as I rush to respond
I fold into the letter C and cater my body to all his commands
He latches and slurps like a king
When I try and move, he hisses
When I try and switch sides, he clamps down harder
Choosing to empty one breast, leaving the other full and leaking
I beg him to stay asleep each time I set him down, but he eats every hour
All the minutes of the night become known to me

*

I see his face everywhere, in unwashed piles of laundry
In the folds of the blankets, in all the shapes of darkness
I wake with a start, panicked, even though he lies in the bassinet beside me
My nipples feel like they are being sucked by a phantom infant
And he’s even followed me into my dreams; I will never be alone again

*

I don’t recognize my body; I am one of the giant mother pigs
Spread out on display at the Calgary Stampede every summer
Piglets attached to each teat, swigging milk as everyone stares
My hair is unwashed and falling out of its bun
There’s jam on my arm and crumbs stuck to me from when I shoved bread into my mouth
My stomach is soft and thick and puffs straight out
The rest of me is swollen, hobbling around the house
I’m scared to cough or sneeze in case it disrupts the stitches

*

My skin smells like spit-up, sweat and breast milk
When I feel damp, I don’t know which of the three liquids stains me
If I dare sleep more than three hours, the stinging of my nipples wakes me
Mother Nature warning me I am no longer here to sleep
I am here to serve.

 


 

Moving

 

I have lived many lives

A child with knotted stuffed animals
and missing eyes
books and games dented
with bite marks

A schoolgirl with broken hopscotch handles
and purple juice stained notebooks
valentine cards with the slanted scrawl
of long forgotten best friends

A teenager with pages and pages
of diary punctuated with the initials of her great loves
notes from boys revealing all the secret
things they want to do alone together
notes from girls discussing how to do
all the secret things the boys said
they wanted to do

A university student with sloppy essays
slashed with the red marks of professors
eager textbooks bright with desperate
highlighting and mounds of notes reciting
words and meanings you can no longer remember

Old yearbooks, our faces trapped in time
for one perfect instance of youth
and crushing vulnerability
all thrown out in the rush of moving

Long empty bottles of perfume
that still smell like careless high school summers
cheap jewellery from the boy you swore
you’d never leave
swirled together in the vortex of
black garbage bags

I have lived many lives
and I will live many more

 


FELICIA ZUNIGA‘s poetry has been published in Contemporary Verse 2 – The Canadian Journal of Poetry and Critical Writing, The Antigonish Review and Freefall Magazine. She has written articles for a variety of magazines and newspapers. She has a Master of Journalism degree from Carleton University and a Bachelor of Arts degree in HonoursEnglish, with a Creative Writing Concentration, from the University of Calgary. She lives, works and writes in Calgary. Her published work can be viewed on her website at: http://www.feliciazuniga.com.

Copyright © 2019 by Felicia Zuniga. All rights reserved.