I'm two and one-half and at the house my father, mother, and I are about to move into. What I see when I remember is my father dismantling a crib in the corner of a small bedroom and light pouring through two south-facing windows. September light, red and gold, low light that steeps more than blazes. My father is bent to his task and he’s talking to me. I don’t remember his words but know he’s telling me that the baby my mother has been carrying was born dead; he’s telling me there is no more baby.
I remember a whoosh, almost like the light from the windows entering my body. A whoosh that fills me or wakes me or somehow lets me know I have skin and that this skin contains me. I – the one everyone calls Judy – is suddenly on one side of this skin and everything on the other side is not me, not Judy. I must not have known this before, though I don’t remember what I did know. Before, was Judy not distinct from wallpaper, wood floor, double-hung windows, Daddy Bob, kewpie doll, Bubbe? I don’t know, but with that whoosh I was separate. My father was across the room, the closet door was behind me, a tall tree stood outside the west window, and my brother was dead.
My mother came home from the hospital, we moved into our new house, my father was gone all day teaching. And? And where was this baby, this brother? No one mentioned him to me again. I felt restless, so suddenly a self, so suddenly separate. Something hovered. Light? A whisper? My father’s words still in the bedroom? My brother? Wasn’t any adult going to provide that barely-born spirit a place he could settle? Apparently not.
So I did. I scooped my brother into my heart and made him a home.
(this is from By Heart: Poetry, Prison, and Two Lives)