Scattered glass

A poem by Janey Lew

Photo by Matty Cooper from Pexels

for Alex

They say never to shake a baby,
but what if you touched
a man who carried a shaken baby
inside him? what if

One night you reach for him
touch the spot, you hope
to hold him but fail
to gauge the strength

of your grip, his convulsions first rigid
then slack he shakes shakes
shakes—No—you are the one doing
the shaking, your hands

drop but this is after you shook
the man, woke
the baby inside—Stop—
stop shaking, then silence

between you. They say—
often there are no visible
signs of trauma, no visible signs

often no signs, no visible
of trauma, often there are signs
often trauma there are shaken
shaken shaken shaken.

Two words settle
between you and the man—love and
perpetrator. Both of you
in shards, afraid to pick each other up.

A small child appears, backlit
by the hallway light, haloed
tendrils catching tiny licks of
fire floating and settling

like ash, the child settles
between you—his mother—
and the man—his father—
on the bed, kicks softness

against the resistance of your bodies, clears
a space larger than the two of you combined, the child
fills the centre, settles gently
over the delicate fragments.

What if you shook a man and he
scattered glass? Vigilance! Don’t move—
Listen—the sound of shame is
the sound of glass embedding itself into skin.

They rarely say what happens after
what to do how to live with
the shaken, how we learn
to steady ourselves, hold our babies,

hold and gather together
the tinkling glass, trade secrets
of which cuts to bandage and
which to leave open to air

to heal. The child meanwhile
surrenders his full weight to your safety,
his lengthening breaths confirm again, again—
breathe, you survived, he is protected.

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