Pandemic

by Christine Adams Beckett

“Any mans death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankinde.”
John Donne, from Mediation XVII

Motherhood is a Mary Cassatt painting,
we women are fooled into thinking:
rosy in hue, rounded, warm impressions,
of notions, of natural strength;

yet as soft as any human touch, the
introduction to the world seems as
painful to the newborn child, who
howls like an animal in the new

cold light that hits his coated skin
like a shock wave of truth, stings
his senses once easily lulled to
sleep in a warm amniotic bath.

My experienced sister told me, as I nested in place:
consider the first three months of a child’s life
a personal emergency. Keeping him alive
will require one’s personal liberties to be

stripped as convicted, to return later in
glorified pieces that merely resemble what
we once knew. What I once knew was
a lost woman who trod a path she thought

was clear; I mourned her, buried her, tipped a hat
to one who now understood her purpose,
in her milky quarantine. Life was not her own,
nor was it ever. For mankind, we begin again,

one body at a time, a collective. The infant in arms,
in a nursery, where frost on a pre-dawn window
blooms a silver bouquet, spreading its cold
branches illuminated in moonlight,

cradled, one of many new beginnings,
his skin flushed pink where it touches mine.