The Shape of Life

by Holly Bruce

I am always, it seems, the corner in a solid circle; square peg, round hole.

Soft powdery warmth, the fold and roll of velvet skin, the dome of a feathered fragile head; muslin wraps a bundle of cherished creation.

I ache for the unattainable; a slow hot drip.

I have endured labor – the pain morphs way beyond the explosion that inevitably marks the end of a miraculous forty weeks – elementally it enters my cells and muscles, and makes a home there. It circles and sinks teeth deep, during Shower Teas where discussions of sleep and feeding routines cause it to writhe hotly within the contained space of my skin. It pulls and twists with envy, I fight to control, at the sight of burgeoning prams and newborn cries. Stretching laborious limbs, it kicks – hard – against the sight and song of playground antics, squeals of toddler joy or indignation. It rears and rips when exposed to questions, intrusive verbal probes – spike and prod; a continual return to the same torn flesh.

Surrounding my longing for this little being, is a cloudy miasma; the leak of my loss. At the door of the show, I have no ticket. Awkward shuffles with etiquette, I am overlooked. It is, after all, really, about the kids. The periphery of the circle is never ending, demarcation deepens. Elbows and shoulders fence my entry, actions exclusive.

There is the talk of preschool then, proud insights, flashes of genius and wit.

From the edge of the sphere I look outside the square and leap into a fresh start where predictably the talk stalls and staggers under the weight of my barren being. The labor pains reassert, unfurl like a infant, and flail fists into my heart.

Time blurs, melting the edges a little; children grow. Then weddings and, of course, grandchildren. The reedy mewl of loss reawakens no matter that I have spent years tucking it in, cajoling it to sleep with lullabies.

It appears I have slipped the most common stitch in the weave of female friendship; dropped it. The resultant fabric reveals a circle. A peephole into another world. A pattern exotic and unknown to me; a closed club. Square peg, round hole.

I am a corner I cannot turn.