On my way out the door to a meeting I grab any old notebook from the shelf so I seem prepared. I assumed it blank but later realize it is full of numbers: my husband’s careful scrawl and lists of measurements: date, time, milliliters—a liquid timetable of those first weeks home with our daughter who wouldn’t latch, who was, the lactation counselor told me, failing to thrive. We went home with an industrial breast pump, a milker: a whirring, squeaking box of suction whose sounds I still lose in the memory of baby coos and exhalations. I clamped myself in every hour while she squirmed and screamed in Nate’s arms, and when I was done, I would trade him: baby for the bottles fresh from the pump. He would carefully hold them up to the light and measure, recording every mL of the golden fluid which we dropped into the mewling hole of her uncooperative mouth. And later scatological reporting from the changing table—so much detail and excitement; our world shrunken but busy. Nate measured the passage of every drop that passed from nipple to her.
What evidence can
prove the depths of love’s
Packing for our move, I mistake a notebook for the one we kept when our daughter was born: those martyred measurements. But it’s a different liquid record—still Nate’s writing, military and precise with measurement, but the liquid is lymph: sticky, smelly, never-to-be-seen fluid leaking from me after all my nodes were removed. This lymph pooled in plastic surgical drains which Nate emptied, I read, on 2/14 at 1:40 am, 8am, 12 pm, 4pm, 9pm, 12am. For days he kept this record of walking me to the bathroom, unpinning the small balloons of bloody bodily syrup and dumping the contents into a measuring cup I think we still use in the kitchen today. He measured with his scientist’s eye and recorded 40 mL, 12 mL, 3 ml, 7ml, watching the measurements fluctuate as my body adjusted to the new blocked pathways and swellings. No one told him to do this. No one was waiting for the data. Who even asked him?
Offered no other control
we measure: quantify
Amanda Moore’s poetry has appeared in journals and anthologies including ZZYZVA, Cream City Review, Tahoma Literary Review, Best New Poets, and Mamas and Papas: On the Sublime and Heartbreaking Art of Parenting, and she is the recipient of writing awards from The Writing Salon, Brush Creek Arts Foundation, and The Saltonstall Foundation for the Arts. She received her MFA from Cornell University, where she served as Managing Editor for EPOCH magazine and a lecturer in the John S. Knight Writing Institute. More about her work is available at amandapmoore.com.
Artwork by: Tom Rogerson