Despite changes that reproductive medicine has wrought over the last half century, the childbearing narrative still unfolds along familiar lines. Conception, pregnancy, and delivery offer a beginning, middle—and an end that is a new beginning. Naturally divided into months, the drama typically ends with a new baby whose adorable qualities will outweigh its constant demands for center stage. But the scenes in Mira Ptacin’s recent memoir do not nest as prettily as Russian dolls.
George is in China now, buried there. Or maybe not. Maybe he was cremated, his ashes flung into Beijing smog—I’ll never know. But one thing is certain: this son of New England is not in America.
I’m up because I can’t stay down. I could blame the aspen raking a branch across the window. Or a wounded toy in the next room sending off a distress call of three long beeps. Or my wife, Jacqui, dreaming again of babies swimming inside her like tadpoles—maybe she...
Most men can’t handle knowing what they are / Capable of—that the only thing they own of / The lives they stumble through are the long / Nights of plague & quiet that we are pushing
Ten minutes later, behind the locked door, / sitting on top of the closed toilet seat,
The first time I met my husband, he was wearing a single-breasted, peacock-blue suit made of silk. In the khaki and navy blazer culture that was Washington, D.C. at the time, Mario stood out. With his continental name, olive skin, and sartorial flair, many assumed he was Italian. That people were surprised to discover he was Mexican said less about him than it did about their preconceptions, some of which I shared. This was before I’d moved to Mexico, before I’d read The Labyrinth of Solitude, in which Octavio Paz says of the zoot-suit wearing pachuco:
His disguise is a protection, but it also differentiates and isolates him: it both hides him and points him out.
Maybe there is no hierarchy of suffering, no hierarchy of loss. Then again, of course there is. In “Lost and Found,” the first story in Amina Gautier’s lovely collection, The Loss of All Lost Things, a boy has been “plucked from the curb like a penny found on the sidewalk” by a strange man, pulled into a car, and taken away.
Nothing calls back to my dog when he barks / against the dark window glass.