Mother to mother (the stepmother speaks)

Today my son cried for the first time
about you leaving. My son–our son–

has always said he understands.

He’s always said he was ok. “Ok” without
warm arms around him for so long.”Ok” without
a warm breast to lie on.

You are “cool.” You’re his “really good friend.”
And he’s said that’s just fine. He’s ok.

But today, at 17, he lay in my arms and cried.

He told me how, when he was three, you
asked him if he’d like to live with you

or with his dad and he had wished he
didn’t know the right answer. He’d wished,

even then, that he hadn’t had to say “Dad.”
He’d wished that when he did, you
would have said “No!”

He had wished you’d wanted him.

And while his tears dampened my collar,
he told me that you said you’d never have
had children, if you’d known what it was like.

I want to call you “Sister.” I want to
write about our shared experience. I want to
see you as a part of my tribe.

I want to look into your heart and know
that you’re human–that
you’re woman–just like me.

But I can’t.

If I allow that blood runs through your veins
instead of ice, that your arid breasts
once made milk, I’d have to believe that
you’re more than a human tundra, that
there’s some light, some warmth inside you.

Sister, that is so hard to believe.

If I were to offer you a gift,
it would be to break you,
to get in your face and listen to you
until you can’t hide your pain,
until you are human again.

Until you cry
like my son cried
today.