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Measure the Loss

for Daniel C. Roper, IV,
September 9, 1995 - December 4, 1995

by Janice Roper, 2/96

reprinted with permission

Love is a circle of arms.
Love is a kiss on the cheek.
Love is the manipulation
of arms into the t-shirt, snaps at the crotch.
Love is the smoothing of
cream across buttery skin
and wiggle response. It is the smell
of baby powder
and Winnie the Pooh Shampoo.

Love is a piece of flesh
tended in privacy, cells splitting, blossoming
warmth held within, connected by a cord
in fluid walls of random aches, stretch marks and
beautiful discomfort
growing slowly to burst.

The white pain crashes
and ebbs, pushing and pausing toward
lightness, both beginning and ending,
a change.

My heart leaves my body. It lays
quitely beside me. It is wrapped
in soft cotton. It feeds from my breast.
It is a baby
being passed around the room
moon faces glowing down at him.
His eyes follow me.
He knows my song, my smell,
and I know his.

Love takes flight but does not die
when he stops breathing.
It floats above the body, I hold
onto the skirt of his soul
as it takes me too
close to the blinding,
burning sun. Love spreads
like a scream.

My son, his memory
flies through me like a tingle of fire,
prickles across my skin, dissolves
into heaves of choking wet dispair
alone, in the bathroom,
with the water running
and everyone else

My son, think of ways
to honor him, think of ways
to cherish him, think of ways
to digest this rape of my
perfect family, my love, the butchering of my
devotion, pieces scattered on the bathroom floor
like shards of glass, like lumps
of dirt on top of his coffin, lumps
of cancerous grief
caught in my throat.

The beautiful color of his eyes looking into mine -- plus
His voice, the sound of it, the loss of conversations -- plus
A million hugs and nightime tuck ins with kiss -- plus
Tickles, giggles, jokes and laughter -- plus
Watching him walk, run, blow out birthday candles, figure out a puzzle,
hit a single in little league, his face glowing in triumph . . . the
loss of the grandchildren I might have had . . .
The loss . . . -- plus
The loss . . . -- TIMES
fierce arguments with my husband
impatience with my living child
anger at the government who should have funded more research
anger at the medical community who should have found the cure
anger at my pediatrician who should have seen it coming
anger at baby care books that barely acknowledge the SIDS risk
anger at the world that continues to turn without him
anger at myself for not being able to save him somehow . . .
Anger . . . Times the anger . . .

Now, I . . .
bleed at every moon.
Now, I . . .
imagine him dancing there
Now, I . . .
wear an angel pin
Now, I . . .
embrace the pain of pure love and,
when it cannot be contained,

I must lay down. I am
red and black beneath the eyes, feeling
nothing now. I have
evaporated in the fire of grief,
drawn into the stillness of the total
loss, unable to move, only ashes of thought
remains of my Danny.

Cherubs sneak in and
sweep me away.

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