Two Poems by Pamela Mathison-Levitt

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C’est La Vie

Two men stood up and begged
for the lives of their wives.

Back home, their bills stick
in the mailbox,
a half gallon of milk curdles,
and the last pair of dirty socks—
thrown into the basket—
mold in crumples.

I do not know the men or their wives,
Yet we are intimately acquainted.

We met over a cooled coffee cup
with an everlasting lipstick imprint,
or a drive home where the grass
was too brilliantly green.

We remember that strand of a hair
across a forehead,
the size of gravel underfoot,
the other side of a breath,
where we became too closely acquainted,
where there was no way to go back again.

Lying in the ambulance,
I was reconciled;
it could all go on.
But now, I am back again,
and the wait is relentless.

My child coughs and I fear:
what if it is not allergies.
The car in front of me swerves
and I crash
over and over.
A cross at the road edge reads names
again and again.
An erased voicemail seems too risky,
so, my messages fill up.

Judy Garland sings in the background,
“Until then, we’ll have to muddle through, somehow…”
This time, you fall before me,
pallid and motionless on the floor.
I can’t bear the emptiness.

This whole life feels like one glorious lie.
I keep wondering when the suspense will subside,
when I will return to the dream,
but I have awakened to grief
and it will never leave me.

I could be the man in Paris begging for mercy.
I will be the child reaching
for arms that won’t wrap her up again.
I will be the mother with still arms.
I am all the loss and the lost:
all that is unforgotten.

Written after the Paris terrorist attacks 11/13/2015.

Phantom Belly

A mother has one
after her children are born.
What is left extends so far,
it seems bigger
than what can hold or be held:
growing, stretching,
sagging pouches
of vacancy,
abandonment.
Such a fertile place
for barrenness to breed.

I tuck mine in.
No one can see
the stretch marks,
the intimate folding,
the way I carried so much
for an infinite space and time.
Now, my phantom belly creaks:
a ghost town of
overgrown, crumbling walls
and rubble
where small creatures
once darted out.

Pamela Mathison-Levitt is a disabled writer and homeschooling mother living in Maryland. Her work is featured or forthcoming in The Anthology of Appalachian Writers: Volumes III and V, Fluent Magazine, Emerald Coast Review Volumes XXI and XXII, Literary Mama blog, and the Ehlers Danlos Society e-magazine, Loose Connections. Her essays about chronic illness can be found on The Mighty. You can read more of her work on her Instagram page, Lines and Branches, https://www.instagram.com/pmmlevitt/.

Image: TheHungryTiger at English Wikipedia, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

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