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What She Taught Her Children

—for Susanne Hinrichs

The winter of Christina’s first year brought fever,
a fire that tore up the spinal cord and burst 
into the brain burning out her hearing and vision
leaving in its ashes a dozen lives imagined
by her parents who knew her now by her crying. 
That sound became the low-grade hum in the house,  
an electricity that built and swirled and encased 
the family behind a kind of glass that people pointed to
and pitied but rarely pushed open. Even after Susanne
moved her child to a convent, then the hospital, visits
from friends thinned, then stopped. For seven more years, 
Christina cried and convulsed, her bones lengthened, 
the baby fat siphoned away by time. Her parents dragged
her siblings to the convent and then the hospital 
to see her. Susanne taught them, you don’t leave
a person in a place like this and just walk away.
So, she kept coming back, finding a way to muscle 
into a split second of stillness, when the little body
rested in her arms, when the child could find the pause 
of a moment, and the mother could smooth the child’s chapped skin. 

©2020 by Camille-Yvette Welsch