Meaghan Ford

Meaghan Ford is a Boston-based writer and designer always looking for that next great project. She’s a regular reader at the Cantab Lounge and Poetry Slam and is helping to organize the 2011 National Poetry Slam. She once fought a bear in the New Jersey Pine Barrens but let him win when she saw his cub watching—she firmly believes it’s wrong to shame a father when his kid’s around.

 

Two Poems (May-ish, 2011. Issue 28.)

Christmas Morning, 1983

The pilot light's out again.
It's the third time this week your house is painting cold kisses up your back.

Your wife is just rounding at the waist,
You spent all night holding her,
in the shifting shadows of snowfall.
amazed
at how her hair knows just how to hug the edges of your fingers
You know every crease of her lips,
the mountain range of the cracked tooth she hides in smiles
the scar under her chin when the pavement found her.
You revel in every flaw,
each sharp stroke that makes up her face.

She was wrapping the baby in her stomach with swaddling knees
When you fled, a box of strike-anywhere's in hand,
you saw the first kicking of feet pressing beneath the sheet,
The soft linen bouncing with breath.
Your son.
This is all you ever wanted.
You are smiling for just a moment
as a sputter, like coughing out seawater limps the furnace back to life.
This is not the sound you will remember.
But the tea kettle scream breaking through your ceiling
You never knew your feet could not move as fast as you wanted them to.

You will find her, hands grasping at the air
wet, red sheets tangled between her legs.
You have never seen this much blood from a person still breathing,
and you cannot find the place where the world has ripped her open.
Your arms do not know how to hold something while it is still breaking.
The angle and force that will cause the least damage
but she is screaming and you are running
bare feet striking your driveway like bent match heads.
When they take her from you,
you will stand in the longest hallway of your life
a trail of rust-colored footprints in your frothing wake.
They will give you a shirt and make you wash the blood off your chest.
The doctor's will say, Take her home.
She will lose him tonight.
Bring her back when it happens.

A day will pass and the chestnut growing in her stomach will stay.
A week. A month. The doctors will be wrong.
You will finally forget to be careful.
His hands will find yours through the wall of her stomach
and the edges of this day will grow soft with dust and sun.
You will call him miracle,
because you do not know any other words to describe it.
You should never have wanted something this much.

His laughter will always sound
like gravel caught in the grooves of your shoes.
There is something bent to the way he walks, like a shifting stalking thing.
Would you still have been smiling
if you knew the damage his hands would be capable of?
How they knew how to find the edges of wrists and hips
just how much force needs to be applied to hold a person down
the angle of teeth to collar bone
how he would revel in every blending note of a scream.
This is what drowning feels like.
How life will find new ways to pull your breath out of you.
Will you know the words to describe this loss?
Will you still close your eyes in every blinding hallway
like you could see the clawing of his hands,
and pray for him to live?

Astronaut

In the old yellow house with the broken gutter
You made your mother read you the same story every night for months
About a pretty little girl who became an astronaut
By commandeering a space shuttle
Because she was just that persuasive as a six years old
And saved the entire world from some done-by-dinner-time plot
For years you were convinced that all it took to save the world
Was an absent-minded NASA employee and a smart mouth.

Was it the first time your stretched your arms
Yawning out the morning sun as a babe
Eyes still squinting with sleep
That you thought you could make it to the stars?
Did you think the moon was just some glowing ball of light
waiting to be plucked out of the sky and kicked around in your backyard?
Did your father’s arms holding you above his head
Convince you that you were weightless?
Gravity will always remind you of all the things you’re not capable of

The word astronaut literally means “star” “sailor”
Derived from the Greek, a people known for their magical thinking
Maybe this is why they call them spaceships
Over the past millennia we have evolved enough of our foolishness out of us
That even we know that we are not supposed to fly.
But we keep flapping our featherless arms like it’s just a hurdle
Like we have so much potential
If only all the sailors closed their eyes and focused on the sea salt in their hair
The open wind on their face like the first time they pumped their legs on a swing
Trying to get to somewhere…outer.
We’d have a chance.

Apollo 1, The Challenger, The Columbia
Weren’t you paying attention?
The night sky is not waiting with open arms to pull you into all the possibility of space
It is a black hole.
And endless vacuum waiting to pull out your lungs
Remove all the oxygen from your body until it is in a race with itself to freeze or explode
Nothing was meant to live out here.
Certainly not you, you fragile little ball of gas
You winking star.

The great space race was not about discovering the universe
But about who could plant the flag first.
And you never made it to space camp
Though they keep stuffing the shuttles with seven people
Like the luck could save them
But all these hubris driven men are lining up for the opportunity
To be jettisoned into this broken fingered dawn
While Houston sits proud with its crackling, mayday voice
Houston, we have a problem
Houston, can you hear us
Can you hear us while we burn?

And you, beautiful little girl
Dreaming of the moon at her bedroom window
As that soft brush stroke of gold slashed its way across your sky
Did you think you saw a shooting star?
Was the sharp flicker of their death something beautiful to wish on?

The Legendary