Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
Night Waking

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He wants to be rocked, walked, soothed:
awake at 1:15, at 2:00, at 3:05, and I can
not hold him any longer—

I find myself driving our mazy streets,
one hand slung behind the headrest
to stroke his cheek, the other palming

the wheel I am too tired to grip.
Only loosely am I connected to my self
which seems to drag far in our wake,

its many desires dwindled to specks
faint as the city stars. Even the craving
for sleep has worn away, leaving resigned

acceptance and a gratitude for night’s
emptiness which comes each evening
at the appointed hour to enfold us.

My dark head facing forward, his downy one
facing back, we’re both quiet, calmed.
The car’s steel frame sways

above its chassis, almost floating;
I’m loose, sliding on vinyl—no seatbelt
at this slow speed. Stop signs

loom up in reflective radiance and we
drift through, turning at every corner.
Not a lamp in any window,

and only once, far down a straightaway,
does another car cross, trailing its taillights’
vanishing glow. Everything is more beautiful,

more singular, in my fatigue. How tenderly
the houses enclose their occupants, vulnerable
in the dark crossing from one day to the next.

The parked cars on either side reflect
engine noise in staticky spurts of sound
through the rolled-down windows.

Here and there a porch light flares,
leaves sliding like black lace
across its glow as we pass. Flashes,

glints, and streaks of light: mysterious
gleams move over the parked cars,
over the windows of houses withdrawn

from the road where my lights must reach
to glide along shadowy bedroom walls,
bend onto ceilings and fade.

I don’t know where any of us are going,
but this is where we begin. Before
the first of whatever wounds we’ll bear.

Carried along from place to place.
Helpless. In utter need of love.
I keep making one drowsy turn after another

as if I can make the whole neighborhood
curl around us, this big rusty car
a cradle rocking him back into sleep.


Emily Tuszynska’s poems have appeared in a number of print and online journals, including Atlanta Review, PRISM International, Rhino, Southern Poetry Review, and Turtle Island Quarterly, and are forthcoming online in Valparaiso Review and Summerset Review. She lives with her husband and three children in Fairfax, Virginia.


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