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January 2016 vol 11 no 4

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Rochelle Potkar


It’s India’s 62nd independence anniversary, and there are two months more for my baby to be born. On TV a reporter wonders if we've made much progress since colonial times. I mark time by stroking my distended belly as it kicks inside on the right, in a rhythmic thud like a Bharatnatyam dancer.

The next day there is blood, blood, and blood.

We lose track of the world outside. We are not inside ourselves, but beside ourselves.

Heart beats . . . perfect lungs, a complete stomach, but her milk-sucking power is less. She is placed in a glass case like a tiny fish in an aquarium. My breasts are engorged; I express milk. We feed it into her tiny mouth through a syringe.

‘If she was a boy, she would lose the battle. Nature is kind to the XY chromosome,’ says my doctor. ‘If she was born in a village, they would put her in a cardboard box and take her home. Only here we fuss about NICUs.’

Time stands still. The baby consumes my sleep.

one small star
nibbling away
the galaxy’s infinity

We record each ml of milk in a diary, each gram of weight lost or gained. I sometimes wish my post-partum fat could melt onto her.

drought forecast –
the street urchin’s kisses
boomerang to him

In six months, the little baby’s skin-creases disappear. Her scrawny thighs become rotund. The numerous lines on her forehead fade. Her cheeks fill in. Flesh covers her bones. In these day and night vigils, I forget that everything grows, not just love, hope, and memory.

dinosaur dreams –
cleaning the salt
of her droopy eyes