By Maureen Martin Appel

He asked casually, what did you do today?

I bought three tomatoes and some onions. Folded the laundry. Studied for my exam.

That’s it?

Yeah, that’s it.


But really she had read about postpartum hemorrhage and therapeutic abortion, new ways to console the family of a stillborn, and how to monitor fetal heart rate.


Last Saturday she spread a blanket on the sand and watched tiny shorebirds pic pic in the waves, beaks sucking, searching for baby crabs, pop pop.

Diamonds fluttered on the horizon, drawing a path to beyond, sparkle, sparkle.


She remembered the hospital room, the pitocin drip, her clammy hands. The indifferent nurse avoiding her pale face, pushing gloved finger into her cervix, scribbling with black pen on the bedside chart, changing the IV bag. She heard whispers in the hall, talk about New Year’s Eve, a stifled laugh, her father coughing.


There was no square turquoise box handed to the grieving mother, no silk ribbon tied in a bow and then untied to reveal inside a rectangle of soft flannel, a tiny crocheted hat, a stiff card for his footprints.


Very old tears fell onto the beach blanket, her nose dripping, his long buried spirit shimmering before her. Why did she let that nurse carry her son out of the room at arm’s length, like the evening trash? His tiny body, wrinkled brown skin like a crumpled grocery bag, so tiny, pop pop. Her heart collapsing back into her chest, a silent wail of grief as he left the room.


She lay in the hospital bed

mute, dumb,

unable to fast forward into speech, her arms reaching

for the sack held at arm’s length,

pic pic, pop pop.


Mag sulfate, lidocaine, defibrillation.

The heart heals after trauma, sometimes. She wants to tell him all of this. How their son would be thirty this year. How she dreamt of him at the beach. How he sparkled on the water, his shining spirit brushing her cheeks.


But she folds up the dream and places it in her pocket. Alone in the kitchen, she picks up the knife and begins to slice one of three tomatoes for the salad.




Maureen Martin Appel lives in Oakland, CA. She works as a lactation consultant, teaching and helping new mothers breastfeed. Her forthcoming work will appear in Pearl.

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