Holding Under

She drives the road that clings to the mountainside like a first love.
She doesn’t think of her split-second calm at her infant’s still chest,
or the throb of dread at its rise. Nor of the woman that gathered
her children when she smelled smoke, locked them in the closet
in fear of the flame. She doesn’t think of the buoyancy of the body,
or of the ease of the holding under. It would never cross her mind
to shut the garage door and turn the key. To press hard fingers
against that soft spot. To give aspirin instead of Tylenol.
To cut something into fourths instead of eighths or sixteenths.
Why should it? The moon has slit open the black of the sky,
and its light brightens the cliff side beautiful. It hovers like a comma,
a breath between the clauses of the cosmos. She inhales, pauses
at the top of a breath where the body believes it will get easier.
The baby shifts in the backseat, a rattle complains when it hits the floor.
She inches toward the white line. She doesn’t think of impact.
Of bones and blood and dirt and metal. Of ambulances or hospitals,
life saving measures or funeral arrangements.
Of how blame will be placed, suffering divided.
She is already under—the broth of the bay settled on her tongue,
the moon a sliver in the black of her eye.

Kami Westhoff’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in various journals including Carve, Meridian, Sundog Lit, Third Coast, Phoebe, Stone Highway Review, Prism Review, The Pinch, and Passages North.