Breathing Life

“Breathing Life into My Daughter”, “Teaching my daughter how to swim” and “About the Woman Recovering from a Broken Heart”

by Yavaria Ryan

Breathing Life into My Daughter

I feel forty-six pieces of her

forming inside of me:

Her fingers dig into the underside of my belly

button, and her feet kick ferociously

for freedom.

In this moment, I want to yell for her

to stop searching for a way to escape this haven.

Maybe if I tell her about Tamir again, the

kicking and digging will stop.

Maybe she will listen if I drown out all

her thoughts with the voices of Fergusson,

or the yells of protest.

Maybe, I will be able to singe her hands with

the riot fires.

If I tell her my story about the time I

screamed the word no too late at a man

I once loved, maybe she will stay

calmly in my belly. Not so eager to leave.

I don’t want her to be afraid, but I want her to know

how it feels to be safe and loved before she’s exposed

to the crudeness of air,

long before she becomes a sheet of paper

for target practice,

even before she’s sniffed out by men who smell

her skin of milk chocolate melting into forms

I will shamefully tell her to hide.

Teaching my daughter how to swim

In the water, she cries even though I am holding her waist.

The sand tickles her toes, and I feel her jolting as if she wants

to flee.

I don’t want her to be like her mother. Always afraid of the water

and drowning in depths no one will ever see. I want her to learn how to jump in

and flail her arms a little.

Maybe she’ll smile in the water long enough for her to tongue kiss the

ocean. Once she tastes the salt breathing in her mouth, she will not

want to leave.

A wave comes towards us, and it is larger than our bodies. In this moment

I say, this is how the ocean hugs us. My daughter wiggles out of my grasp

and says, I do not want to be touched.

She cowers in a position my womb is familiar with, so I grab her arms

and unravel her body like a ballerina in a music box. We will do this together,

I say.

My hands drop back down to her waist. This time I hold on tighter. I don’t want

her to be like me. So afraid of dying that I refused to learn how to swim until

a man threw me into a pool alone and I flailed my arms around until

I learned how to float on my own.

We walk further into the ocean. The tide grows stronger, and pushes our knees

until they buckle, and we sway from side-to-side. She says, I cannot go any further.

I say, You must.

The wave comes closer. My daughter tries to wiggle away, but I cling to her like a

trinket. I will never let go.

It is best that she learns how to conquer her fears from her mother. It is best that

I teach my daughter how to swim before she is thrown into untrained waters

and is expected to wade alone.

The wave rises above our heads, and we look up as it shades the sun from our eyes.

I say, Are you ready for this, my love? She whimpers

something inaudible.

The ocean hugs the fullness of our bodies. We stand there

drenched, yet our feet are still planted firmly in the sand.

My daughter wipes her face with her wet hands and licks her lips.

I loosen my grip on her waist as she tastes the salt and

smiles.

About the Woman Recovering from a Broken Heart

The woman sometimes pokes her finger around her body,

and draws rough drafts of future bruises.

She has used pencils to connect the dots of her hair bumps

that decorate the inner workings of her thigh. Sometimes,

she pokes her finger around down there, searching for a place

to lose herself in. She has found traces of lavender scent

trailing its way towards the button of her belly. The hole is

so deep she can get lost in there, or sleep too long

if she lingers too long. The woman, sometimes,

pokes her finger in and out of her belly button,

pulling out lint (for building hair and a body),

and black specks (two for eyes, one for a nose, six for a smile)

in hopes of building a person she can hold onto.

Someone who won’t spend their time poking

their fingers around her body, creating bruises while

searching for a place to get lost too.

About the Author

Yavaria Ryan

Yavaria Ryan holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Fairfield University. She currently resides in Georgia, but loves traveling around the world.