pure oxygen as the natural sky

“I would often tell myself, she was never mine, she was the world’s. She is not mine, she is the world’s. And all I can do is limit the pain as I see you going places, chasing your dreams, while knowing that you would never come back. As a child, you never clung to my skirt. You never sought me for refuge or sanctuary. You were on your own, even as a little girl. And that’s something I have to live with and bear with as your mother.” – Mama

We Assume: On the Death of Our Son, Reuben Masai Harper
Michael S. Harper

We assume
that in 28 hours,
lived in a collapsible isolette,
you learned to accept pure oxygen
as the natural sky;
the scant shallow breaths
that filled those hours
cannot, did not make you fly–
but dreams were there
like crooked palmprints on
the twin-thick windows of the nursery–
in the glands of your mother.

We assume
the sterile hands
drank chemicals in and out
from lungs opaque with mucus,
pumped your stomach,
eeked the bicarbonate in
crooked, green-winged veins,
out in a plastic mask;

A woman who’d lost her first son
consoled us with an angel gone ahead
to pray for our family–
gone into the sky
seeking oxygen,
gone into autopsy,
a fine brown powdered sugar,
a disposable cremation:

We assume
you did not know we loved you.


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