Elizabeth Gade “My Darling Daughter”

My Darling Daughter

   -Elizabeth Gade

 

I have been locked up 269 days
and you, my darling daughter
are only 236 days old.

 

When the math is done
it equals 33 days you spent
imprisoned in my womb
while I was incarcerated behind
cinderblock jailhouse walls.

 

My constant companion,
my inner strength,
I had nothing to offer
beyond the sound of my voice,
reading you surah’s from the Quran
morning and night.

 

I swear, my darling daughter
I cherished every moment
we had together.

 

When that Spring day came
I labored away the afternoon
under the watchful eyes of two female
correction officers, an army of nurses
flanking the bed but no
familiar faces in sight,
your father banished
to wait in the hospital lobby
because security trumps
the comfort of family
every time.

 

A first time mother,
slick with sweat,
shivering in fear,
reduced to instinct like
every other animal birthing
that Spring,
bearing down until finally
my body gave way and
you slipped from  between
my thighs like a gift.

 

I’ll never forget the surprising
weight of you on my chest,
all 8 pounds 2 ounces of you,
how you looked so much like your father,
the way you laid there eerily silent
until I spoke to you in Arabic
and your response was
a lusty cry that severed
my heart into two
separate halves.

 

The doctor mended torn flesh
as the guard cuffed one ankle
to the bed and I, I just held you.

 

You, my darling daughter
are my favorite season.

 

You are morning dew
and cleansing rains,
clear blue skies
and new beginnings.

 

I cradled you in my arms for 48 hours straight,
nursed you at my breast, memorized
your perfect little face until
I was forced to swaddle you
one last time, lay you gently
in the arms of a nurse
and submit to being
led away in shackles.

 

I swear, my darling daughter
I went back to that jail in despair,
an empty shell of myself,
a body with no purpose,
a mother without her child.

 

Now two full seasons have past,
as I write this poem
it’s been 234 days
since I’ve held you last
and all around the leaves
on the trees are dying
and inside me all hope
has begun to fall away.

 

What good is a day spent
locked behind this cell door
while my child is asleep
in her crib four states away.

 

When asked if I have children
my mouth says I am a mother
but my insides are screaming

I am a mother who hasn’t

been given a chance

to be a mother.

 

Comfort is hard to find
in a handful of memories
and well-meaning pictures
of how much you’ve grown
when all that I remember
is overshadowed by
everything I have lost,
everything I have missed,
everything I cannot get back.

 

I swear, my darling daughter
I miss you with every atom of my heart,
I miss you with an aching desperation,
I miss you like a person drowning
misses their last gasping
breath of air.

 

Winter lays her icy fingers against my cheek,
it’s the beginning of another season
spent away from you,
another day locked up,
suspended in time,
waiting for Spring.

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One Response to Elizabeth Gade “My Darling Daughter”

  1. rhymaphilia says:

    I fancy myself a writer, and I don’t recall having wanted to comment so badly on any work I’ve seen. I think I’ve sat here another ten minutes or so in silence. But I still have nothing other than that this touched me in a way I don’t quite fully understand yet.

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