Other women don’t tell you

there is shrinking too, once milk and need
are gone, once flood is history
and you remember what it’s like
to sleep again, naked, your hands heavy
against a frame that is more you
now that so little of yourself is left, but wait,
the body isn’t first—that grows or stays
or shifts weight awkwardly
like the aging man you’ve never met
whose loneliness you wear as yours—
first is space, inside your mouth, that list
of things you never thought you’d do
like let your child cry
himself to sleep or fall
when you’re not looking or choose
to look away or mention
breasts so many times
in casual conversation
you’d think that they
were never yours, that space
you never thought to count,
39 plastic balls (the kind you’d seen
in McDonald’s commercials that taught you
English so long ago), 23 dirty dishes, 17 bibs
(5 plastic, 12 cloth, and yes, the distinction
matters), 4 piles of laundry (one more
than the people living in your house, so how
is there so much cover for so few bodies?)
2 strollers and 2 car seats and 2 others
whose purpose you are still unsure of,
and 1 you, because there is still you, shrinking
underneath or next to or maybe outside,
looking at your house like a neighbor passing by
who thinks, it sure seems warm inside. 

 
 

Other women don’t tell you

some days, cleaning the bathroom will feel
like enough. Some days, washing out every bottle
and scrubbing the milk residue rings until their white
is in your skin and under your nails, some days, letting
the plastic dry until it shines like expensive China, some days,
that too will feel like enough. And when you’re squatting
on the bathroom floor across from your son, making noises
that are animal and beast and mother in one, watching him
scrunch his face into a prune to make those same sounds
back at you without out result, some days, when he picks up
a magazine about wood building and stay seated and looks
so much like his father and grandfather and likely theirs
and you are there to see this, those days feel like so much more
than enough. But others, most days even, after you’ve hidden
every roll of toilet paper and every spillable and breakable
and chokeable, after you’ve folded and tucked and verbed
through those things other women told you
make you woman or warm or worn out man or maybe
just womb, after you’ve done more with your body
than your body has ever done, nothing feels like enough
                                                                                                      or like anything at all.

 
 

Diagnosis: Takotsubo

I’ll die if you don’t return, mother tells me,
like the beast to the girl in that old story,

with the wilting flower and dying father
whose daughter leaves him for an animal

that became something it could never be.
I’ll die, she reminds me, almost daily

now that I’m already gone. But children
never believe such things—that one day, sooner

even than we realize, we won’t have someone
we can leave. I know slowly, it’s already happening,

her heart expanding into a fishing pot, an octopus trap,
clay and rope submerged in seawater, sinking.

They call it broken, but the muscle is far too strong,
it grows—balloons and stretches—until the chest

cannot contain it, until the skin is calm horizon
and the animal beneath breaks through the water,

open mouthed and not an animal anymore.

 
 
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Julia Kolchinsky Dasbach emigrated from Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine as a Jewish refugee when she was six years old. She holds an MFA in Poetry from the University of Oregon and is a Ph.D. candidate in Comparative Literature at the University of Pennsylvania where her research focuses on contemporary American poetry about the Holocaust. She has received fellowships from the Bread Loaf and TENT Conferences as well as the Auschwitz Jewish Center. Julia is the author of The Bear Who Ate the Stars (Split Lip Press, 2014) and her poems have appeared in Gulf CoastTriQuarterly, Muzzle, and Sixth Finch, among others. Most recently, she won the Williams Carlos Williams University Poetry Prize from the Academy of American Poets and New South’s Poetry Prize. Julia is also Editor-in-Chief of Construction Magazine (www.constructionlitmag.com) and when not busy chasing her toddler around the playgrounds of Philadelphia, she writes a blog about motherhood (https://otherwomendonttellyou.wordpress.com).