When you were small and scared and prone to panic as children are,
in the throes of the rare summer storm or
at the thought of monsters lurking in the shadows of your room,
your mother would throw back the covers of her bed and welcome you inside,
into that warm, safe place between your parents
that, once you outgrew, you never stopped longing for.
And she would rub your back and hum your favorite lullabies,
shush your father should he rouse,
and you, safe in your mother’s arms, would drift,
despite the rain, despite the shadows—
back to sleep.
So when your mother thrashes herself to exhaustion in the midst of a summer storm,
you pull back the covers of her bed, and you slip inside,
to the cold curl of her waning body,
and you tremble, unsure of your welcome,
and you want
more than anything
that there is a place beyond this one that is the waking world
and that you are nothing but anchored to a dream
that your mother will soon save you from, pull you up for air,
and rub your back and sing you lullabies
and wait out your shaking sea legs until your heart finds itself steadied.
But she goes, instead, and leaves you unmoored and alone,
the warmth going from her body, no room
in her narrow hospital bed for
And the thunder outside is the crashing of waves on rocks,
the rain on the window the sound of a crew running, scattered,
on the deck top,
and the humming of the lights overhead
is what it must be like for a ship to wreck,
and the ocean to swallow it whole,
and the world to forget
all at once
that it had ever set sail at all.
And they pull you, soaked with your own tears, from her bedside,
and they swaddle you in blankets, clap your back,
and let your wails echo between four cold walls
because in this moment you are infinitely small,
The world is huge and unfathomable to you
without your mother by your side,
and you are sure, so sure, that there are monsters lurking in the dark,
under your bed, in your closet,
waiting to pull you under,
without your mother there, a light on the rocks piercing through the shadows
and guiding you into that safe place along her side, in her arms.
Fear is a bathtub full of water.
Fear is a raging, angry thing.
Fear is a shadow following your ship atop a still and silent sea,
and in it