Hillery Stone
We Are Lent Our Sons
He said we are lent our sons never take
Too much pleasure in what you love.
—Edward Hirsch, “Gabriel”

With Arlo wheezing in his tiny railroad pajamas
I dream an engine is underneath us,

I thrum with his frightening breath. How
did my mother do this when she woke in the night

to find her infant son unconscious, 106 degrees, shimmer
of purple spots pulled from the dark? I know

I take too much pleasure in the sons I love,
and the daughter, and the Idareds heaped on the counter

in a certain light while the brilliant, complanate leaves
of the ginkgo loll on every sidewalk.

I want to believe in the pleasure until
I can’t. Here the mouth of dread stays unfastened

like a car door left ajar, the long trip down the mountain
to call an ambulance because we didn’t have a phone.

Arlo is only rasping but how tenderly
I remember my mother in that dark shadow

of illness; the hot water bottle of our one shared bed.

Thirty years later I still look for those spots in fever
and the guard in me rises at the first rattle

or wheeze. I can’t bear the fragility of this life—​​
not like the friend

who says why did I ever have children? but a longing sometimes
to disappear with them to where nothing will get us

like the old cartoons where one minute they’re lifting
to run, and the next

they’re just gone.

Savage Island
​When I spot the lump body of my firstborn
asleep under salt-white sheets

I remember the dead lamb
we found still warm

in the grass on Savage Island
the summer Amy and I rode

a three-wheeler over the undulating land
looking for the flock that left it there.

Amy taught me pragmatism
in a brute world. I was raised

by women gone wild from years
in the forest of motherhood

and duty. We lived
among the bloodroots and sugar maples,

the ardent maidenhair fern.
We weren’t beasts

exactly. But we stuck together,
poor and world-fearing, out of necessity.

Mother said if one of us had to leave
this earth, we would all go.

Hillery Stone is a poet and essayist whose work has appeared in Gulf Coast, Green Mountains Review, Painted Bride Quarterly, Paterson Literary Review, Rattle, Vela Magazine and on the Academy of American Poets website, poets.org.  She has an MFA from New York University, where she taught in the Expository Writing Program for ten years, and lives with her family in Brooklyn.