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by Kathryn Carson about a year ago in love poems
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A prose poem for Pride

Our front door wreath

I painted your nursery bright dusty yellow—a cheerful non-color, like the light on a country dirt road in summer, neither a “boy” color nor “girl,” a safe and open space for any child to grow. I answered the same way when people asked—and they always asked—are you hoping for a boy or a girl? I answered the same—always the same—I just want all ten fingers and all ten toes. It shamed them into remembering that health is not a given, that we can’t choose bodies for our children as if they were some bright chrome product on a shelf in a store.

An artist friend added a mural of a flowering tree, with a stand of blue-green bamboo to one side and a mountain in the distance, in shades of dappled-sun green. I didn’t have the heart to tell her the tree that had looked so full in small scale looked blasted up onto the wall, thin and hard-scrabble with its colorless white blossoms, as if it were straining to find good soil. The mountain was a perfectly improbable pyramid. The bamboo was the most successful part of the whole mural, looking as bamboo really does, springing up lush and new in its shady corner.

I tried so hard to wash away my expectations for you, too, along with the yellow in my brushes. I told myself that all I wanted was all ten fingers and all ten toes. Boy or girl I didn’t care, I just wanted you there with me. It would put you so much farther along the path of life than my first pregnancy. Ugly, stupid word, miscarriage. It sounded like I dropped a ball instead of pints of my blood on the floor. Rainbow baby would have sounded nicer. But my first baby didn’t make it far enough to be called that. All I saw of my first that made any sense was a single arm, perfectly red and glistening like a pomegranate seed, and just about the size of one, resting in my palm. The paddle hadn’t quite become fingers yet.

I tried for months to wash that memory down the drain, too, rinsing my terror and the sunshine out of my brushes together as I waited and prepared for you. You would be different, second baby. You would have all ten fingers and all ten toes. You wouldn’t become as insubstantial as blood washed off a floor. You wouldn't be a rainbow.

You arrived on a scalding hot day, with a sun like your nursery color baking in a kiln. I hugged myself in my hospital bed, clutching my gratitude and my pride to my naked body, that I had made something more than a pomegranate seed. You were far more beautiful than anything else I’d ever made. All ten fingers and all ten toes, head a nearly-naked fuzz of blond, eyes a fathomless dark agate blue. Out of death I’d somehow pulled artistry.

You arrived home with all the colors that childhood can bring, and not one of them was good enough for you. They changed all the time. The blue in your eyes morphed throughout your first week at home, becoming cornflower and navy and chalcedony and, for just one amazing day, amethyst. The orange in your skin leached away, leaving behind something as bright and pale as velum, with veins like teal ink brushed on by a calligrapher. Eventually your eyes found their level, settling into the blue-gray of deep water under bright cloud. The velum became the delicate blush of white roses—still white, like the blossoms on the tree in your mural—but somehow so much more when living, a white built of summer peaches and pink tea roses and blinding desert sun.

Your eyes and skin are the only colors that haven’t changed since.

As you accreted a personality, you accreted colors, like a crab or a bird picking the brightest things to keep for yourself. Bright pink for the dresses you chose. Gleaming gold for the princess tiaras you wanted to wear. Then at some point you chose shining silver for the pirate swords and pistols you toted around the house, as you screamed “ARRR!” with your friends like a password. Then it became every neon color imaginable in the chalk in your hair, in the makeup you put around your eyes, in the costumes you flew threw and discarded as fast as you could go.

You talked about painting your room, but you couldn’t settle on a color. And you couldn’t bear the idea of painting over your tree. Your tree. You called it that. My tree. The thing that I had seen as blasted and colorless, you claimed out loud as your own, as your symbol amid the bright dusty yellow of the walls I’d painted for you. But in your quiet moments I saw you studying the bamboo, growing lushly blue-green in its protected corner.

I watched you fall in love with a beautiful dark-eyed girl.

You picked out dark pants instead of bright dresses. Moody t-shirts instead of patterned tunics. When you asked me to, I side-shaved your hair like a punk rock icon of the 90s. I swept the blond of your curls into the garbage can the way I’d once washed my terror away with the yellow in my brushes.

I’m learning to fling my expectations and my fears aside, like broken tools we no longer need on your grand adventure.

Your walls are still yellow, but you’ve become a living rainbow within them, growing up faster than bamboo. I wear our pride on a wreath on our front door, bright colors all year round. You’ll change your name and your body someday, the same way you changed all those other costumes that didn’t fit. You’ve already changed your name.

When you’re ready to leave, I’ll keep your tree safely here. I’ll even keep the walls yellow. But the rainbow wreath, our pride, is yours to take with you.

love poems

About the author

Kathryn Carson

I have MS, Hashimoto's, and a black belt in taekwondo. I'm also an ocular melanoma survivor. This explains why my writing might be kind of obsessed with apocalypse--societal, religious, and personal.

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