Under My Hand, the Softest Splinter (or, Hope, Even Now)


Maile exhales in her sleep. The window that looks out
onto James Street is open, the summer air still against
the screen. Maile stirs
in bed, pulls a pillow in
under her belly, under our baby yet to be
born. It is 4am, and I am awake

A car slips by, its radials humming. What new evil
will flare in the world
tonight? I wonder. What new out-
pouring of hate blood violence
on a knife’s edge driven home by an after-
math of anger and suspicion?

I move up against Maile and wrap my arm
around her, my hand on her nearly-ripe stomach.
Then, my hand is
nudged by a human not-yet-here,
a human not-yet-born. Its presence sudden,
real. What have we
done? I wonder. Why invite anyone
into this hate blood violence victims contempt,
into this swirling world of rage and

pop-pop-pop go the guns. Rat-tat-tat. I can feel
the air moving around me as the bullets
fly. I hear them absorbed by flesh and bone and walls.
My thoughts are the sound of
shattering glass. Someone, somewhere, lets loose
a primal cry. Then

under my hand, the softest
splinter. Is that a foot? An elbow? Is that
the soft nudge of hope, the insistence
of something beautiful yet to come?

There were, after all, people waiting
to give blood. Their blood for blood, their life for
life. There were 200 Muslims bowing
in prayer for victims, candlelight glowing in place
of gun fire flashes. We are them and they are us and
all around are gentle nudges reminding us of something
beautiful yet to come. Will we bring it
into being? The labor is never easy.

There will be blood. Yes, there will be
blood. But there will also be a rushing
of waters
the crowning of a head
the first glimpse of powder on a new face
never seen before. There will be
the slipping into the world.
There will be screaming. Yes, there will be
screaming. But there will also be hopeful
tears smiles and bulbs blooming
the cutting of that which joined us
a rapid latching on
a sense of awe that even when evil rises in the middle
of the night, a new birth is coming.

I leave my hand there on her belly. I fall
asleep, the undulating waves of –
what is it, hope? –
living, breathing future
pressing on my finger prints. An elbow, I’m sure
of it. Or perhaps a heel, born
to crush the very head
of this persistent evil, perhaps a gentle hand, born
to usher in a fresh peace.

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