Thing we know we will never know

“There are Times in Life When One Does the Right Thing”
By Ellen Bass
There are times in life when one does the right thing

the thing one will not regret,

when the child wakes crying “mama,” late

as you are about to close your book and sleep

and she will not be comforted back to her crib,

she points you out of her room, into yours,

you tell her, “I was just reading here in bed,”

she says, “read a book,” you explain it’s not a children’s book

but you sit with her anyway, she lays her head on your breast,

one-handed, you hold your small book, silently read,

resting it on the bed to turn pages

and she, thumb in mouth, closes her eyes, drifts,

not asleep when you look down at her, her lids open,

and once you try to carry her back

but she cries, so you return to your bed again and book,

and the way a warmer air will replace a cooler with a slight

shift of wind, or swimming, entering a mild current, you

enter this pleasure, the quiet book, your daughter in your lap,

an articulate person now, able to converse, yet still

her cry is for you, her comfort in you,

it is your breast she lays her head upon,

you are lovers, asking nothing but this bodily presence.

She hovers between sleep, you read your book,

you give yourself this hour, sweet and quiet beyond flowers

beyond lilies of the valley and lilacs even, the smell of her breath,

the warm damp between her head and your breast. Past midnight

she blinks her eyes, wiggles toward a familiar position,

utters one word, “sleeping.” You carry her swiftly into her crib,

cover her, close the door halfway, and it is this sense of Tightness,

that something has been healed, something

you will never know, will never have to know.

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