we see only what we couldn’t do

by Jill Kitchen

a helicopter overhead. i barely notice its thrum above foothills. so unlike the helicopters in los angeles, spotlights panicking above streetcorners, searching for the bad in everyone. our deepest-aching secrets, what we bury in closets, beneath beds, don’t even dare tell ourselves. how the ribbons that tie us together are at first so tight, we couldn’t imagine being apart. then they loosen, fray, until we startle and cringe when the other walks into the room. when before, we would brighten, at last reunited with our salt love, the roots that hold these trees. how now you look alarmed when i speak your name, as though i am summoning you to emergency, to return to trauma, as though when you see me, you see the me with blue lips, without heartbeat, the curve of our child in the me being pressed and pressed beneath another woman’s hands to call back my heart. as if you are somehow caught in the trap of not having known how to save me and our son, that every time you see me you are reminded of what you couldn’t do. while i remember only what my body couldn’t do, how it couldn’t carry me through hours of labor without trembling into seizure, without stopping heart and breath, without star-darkening onto floor, blood escaping into a red moon on carpet from where once you would kiss me, from where breath once poured, from where still i struggle to make our flower-shaped wings bloom.

Jill Kitchen’s work appears in HADFERALRust & MothSWWIM, Tinderbox Poetry JournalWest Trestle Review, and is forthcoming from Radar Poetry. She has a B.A. in Romance languages from Colorado College and studied creative writing at UCLA, Columbia University, The Poetry Project in New York City, and with Hollowdeck Press in Boulder. She lives in Boulder, Colorado where she can be found rollerskating on the creek path searching for great horned owls. Twitter: @jillkitchen 


Photography by: Joel Filipe