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Where Loneliness Begins

At 40

I have learned to wrap my loneliness around me

Like an old winter coat.

There is beauty in things broken.

Kindness guards against a bitter season.

When I was 30

I spent sleepless nights

Building babies

Of hushed song, warm milk, swollen eyes.

A mother’s work is her secret.

When I was 26

I came undone

Under a smoldering desert sun

Found nectar in the Mojave

Felt my body melt like water.

Water has no shape.

Home is an ocean

Though I’ve never learned to swim.

When I was 14

I learned to dissolve in crowded spaces.

Even among friends

I start to fade along the edges.

This is not the same as sadness.

Emptiness, like contentment, demands no shape.

When I was 2

I sat alone in a curtained room

Terrified that the darkness would swallow me.

There were no big arms reaching down to save me.

I live under old shadows.

When I was born

Air flooded my watered lungs,

Sending a singular shrill cry into the universe.

Isn’t this how it all begins

Alone in a giant world?


Christen Lee is a family nurse practitioner in Cleveland, Ohio. Her writing has been featured in the Cleveland Humanities Festival poetry collaborative, Literary Cleveland's Voices from the Edge Anthology, Rue Scribe, The Write Launch, and Aurora - The Allegory Ridge Poetry Anthology.

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