From Issue 23: Three Poems

Chloe Yelena Miller
Three Weeks Early
Most of me, all of you, hidden:
blue curtain along my bare clavicle.
My head turned to one side to vomit,
jaw rattled with cold, gasps.
Your father held my hand, kissed my face.
I thought of my mother,
cold enough to ask for socks in labor.
I couldn’t feel my feet to know if they were cold.
Did you hear my cries
before I heard yours?
Finally, you, brow furrowed,
saw my wet face
from the distance of your father’s arms.
I tried to push you out, sweet baby love.
I wanted to pull you to my chest,
nurse you and stroke your dark hair.
There was so much I’d planned,
before the blood & rush the night before.
I Knew
I knew I’d die in childbirth.
(I was wrong about that, too.)
Once I could walk after the C-section,
I pulled my body & IV to the bathroom.
I had felt, and now could see in the dim light,
whiskers on my chin.
No one had plucked them.
No matter.
Only my breasts and hands would be remembered in photographs.
What would baby think of me?
He had been inside. Knew me the way no one else did.
What would he think of me, now?
four weeks old
You startle me. A human
displacing yesterday’s empty space.
Some call life a miracle.
But hilltop gods didn’t glue together dirt,
olive branches and marble with saliva
to build you or the others.
Closing apartment doors startle you.
Your arms push back behind your head;
hands thump against
me or the crib, squinting eyes dart.
That reflex to protect yourself,
to survive against storms, other humans.
My instinct to protect you,
to remove all inside doors,
lay shag carpet & hang medieval
tapestries to muffle sound.
To nail boards over the windows,
hold you too tight in my arms
as we hide under the crib.
I have so much to unlearn.
Chloe Yelena Miller is a writer based in Washington, D.C. She teaches writing at the University of Maryland University College and Politics & Prose Bookstore in Washington, D.C., as well as privately. She blogs at and tweets at @ChloeYMiller.

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