Cleansing Waters by Susan L. Lipson

Cleansing Waters

Cleansing Waters

by Susan L. Lipson

Grimacing, I felt each gush of the bloody tide
pulling against the fetal barnacle clinging
desperately to the eroding walls of my womb,
no longer secure.

My sudden lack of cramps woke me, after hours
of battering by waves of pain, fear, sadness--
struggling to breath, clinging to flotsam,
salt stinging my eyes.

Unnerved more than relieved
by the creepy calm of the receding tide,
I froze, held my breath, wondered whether
to sigh with relief or grief, to end the scary silence.

An inaudible, yet raspy voice emanated from the darkness,
a vaguely familiar accent I hadn’t heard in twenty years.
My grandfather reassured me: “Don’t vorry,
Mamashayna, it vill happen again. Soon.”

Puppa? Why him? How does he know it’ll happen soon?
His whispers soothed me like an ocean breeze,
“Sha...sha...sha…,” frothing like foam on wet sand,
cleansing away my grief, leaving a lighter body in its wake.

Three months after my never-to-be-met
April due date had faded,
like a lovingly carved
message in wet sand,
my firstborn daughter arrived in July,
a sparkling new treasure of a soul
with blue-green eyes to match.

Could she have the same soul that
tried to embody itself in me,
rerouted through miscarriage
to live in this girl’s body?
A soul seeking a summer birthday,
a different gender, or a
stronger version of the same mom?

The due date of my next pregnancy
ended my wondering—
the same due date of my never-born baby—
maybe now to be born, after all?!
Blood spots and a prescribed D&C
would have erased that exhilarating idea
if I hadn’t trusted my instincts.

My second-born son, the so-called “empty sac,”
swelled into a child of hidden depths,
who, at four years old, pointed to the air
in the empty kitchen, during a predawn snack,
and asked softly, “Mommy, who’s that man?”
I froze, worried for his sanity, and whispered,
“What man? Do you still see him?”

Little Ian replied fearlessly and r-lessly,
“He's a old man, weawing a long sweatuh.
He disappeawed. But he was nice.”
Climbing off his booster chair, Ian announced
that he was “weady to go back to sleep now.”
He shuffled on his way to his room,
to show me how the old man walked.

Staring into the shell of his ear on my chest,
I heard the echo of Puppa’s voice, and
shivered as the sands shifted beneath me,
revealing a treasure washed ashore:
a fuzzy memory of my shuffling grandfather,
in his long, cardigan sweater, smiling gently,
watching over me and my son.

My Puppa died when I was just
a couple of years older than
the great-grandson who saw him
shuffling through our kitchen.
Only vague mental snapshots remain:
his warm, dark, thoughtful eyes,
framed by smile lines and thick hair,
like Ian’s adult eyes, now;
his quiet presence, content to listen,
to nod kindly while others talked,
like my reserved, soft-spoken son, today.

Puppa played the piano with closed eyes,
sang softly, often hummed, never yelled.
So my mom told me, that is.
Nana said he secretly longed to be a singer--
Such a daydreamer, your Puppa!
Ian is a musician, a songwriter, a singer.
His temper rarely shows itself,
but when it does, it races over guitar strings,
or crashes in waves of drumbeats.
He pulls himself away for hours, writing, humming,
and finally, sharing what flows through his soul.


Susan L. Lipson writes poems about "aha!" moments, either as mini-memoirs, observations of Nature's continuous lessons, or ironic social commentary—sometimes all of those at once. She also writes fiction for the audience she has taught for over 20 years: creative writers from ages 8-18. Susan's recent poetry book, Disillusions of Grandeur and Other Eye-Openers, is available from Amazon. Instagram users can follow her @susanllipson to enjoy regular posts of inspiring photos with short poems.

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