Amanda Leal


Lockdown Emptiness, street scene by Natascha Graham

In the mornings, I walk my dog while gazing upward,
through the oak branches, as though I am wandering directly
to Heaven. The deadwood opens like hands
to the powder blue sky, starling nests
knotted to the naked branches, and as my eyes fall
to my son, I see the sacred geometry of nature,
the knots at the dead ends of his hair,
analogous to the bird’s nests,
as though he grows new life within his being.
He bounces over the sidewalk, his light-up shoes sparkling
on the cement, his long calves like parenthesis,
his yellow dinosaur shirt flashing like a buttercup.
At once, I recognize the purity of our lives,
the glitter of dew that has fallen to the grass,
my son’s hands, outstretched, still dimpled
beneath his fingers, gesturing to the ducklings
which bob through the field.

As we settle on the ground, I gather my son
to sit on my lap, burying my face in the whorl of his hair,
the fragrant den of baby shampoo, cookie crumbs.
I inhale through the egg that swells in my throat,
as I remember past times that I fell in love
with being alive. I unfold his hand, counting
the digits, as one does with a new baby, engrossed
with gratitude, and I lay his fingertips upon the dust
of the duckling’s first molt, the skeletal frame
of its wings beneath the pimpled skin.
I remember the fragility of beauty, the cerebral
thromboses discovered in the vaccine recipients
only days ago, the coagulated matter threaded
within their meninges like spoiled milk,
the bruise on my left arm a reminder
of what may still come.
Even with one arm around my son’s waist,
as though to anchor him to my body,
I understand that one day he will live without me,
my lips to the shell of his ear, his eyes open
to the field before us, glistening like the well water
on the grass. He turns his head as though hearing
my unspoken words, and I press a kiss to the rise of his cheekbone,
deciding that as real as death is love, as reliable
as the Earth that swells to meet us,
are his legs crossed over mine, a signature
of patience, as though we could suspend
in this moment forever.


About the writer:
Amanda Leal is a 27-year-old poet from Lake Worth, Florida. Her work has been featured or is forthcoming in issues of Sky Island Journal, Levee Magazine, Pine Row Press, Haunted Waters Press, and others.

Image: Lockdown Emptiness, street scene by Natascha Graham. Fine art photograph. No technical details specified. 2021. By permission.