How It Begins by Julianna Baggott

And isn’t this what we all want?
To be held?

How It Begins
Julianna Baggott

That spring when my parents’ bodies were still pristine,
and the sex so new that each time they were dazed,
grinning like kids holding sparklers in the dark—

can she recall that giving in, knees first,
the ground folding beneath her, how only then
she began to know fear, that it tallies up beat for beat
with love and the world can betray us because we finally
want something from it? For her it was the do-gooders
always claiming the most common things will kill us

furnace pipes asbestos-wrapped, pesticide-sprayed grapes,
even tap water radiated. And she began to wash her hands,
trying to keep clean, to risk nothing; she became a genius,

inventing the patterned travel of germs, from hand to mouth
to vital organ and the lazy swirling ones that love to linger
in towels and sink drains, how detergent itself was lethal.

She scrubbed for us, each plate and spoon, her hands
cracked and bleeding, she boiled and boiled our meat.
I’ve decided it is a sweetness no one deserves, her love

for us grown too large, like the oversized heart ever-expanding
to compensate for one weak murmuring valve,
and the weakness too is love, a constant falling.

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