Whether a child recklessly runs into traffic or clings until peeled off, every mother must balance keeping said child safe while urging him or her to self-reliance. Worrying that bone kept me up long after my wailing infant had gone to sleep.
The mother in Sarah Harwell's "Dead" recounts one of the small miseries of parenting: nightly wrestling a wakeful child toward sleep, which -- in mythological terms -- is within the kingdom of Hades.
The way my daughter sleeps it's as if she's talking
to the dead. Now she is one. I watch her eyes roll
backwards in her head, her senses fold
one by one, and then her breathing quiets to a beat.
Every night she fights this silent way of being
with all the whining ammunition she has.
She wins a tired story, a smothered song, the small
and willful links to life that carry her away.
Welcome to the Egyptian burial. She's gone to Hades
with her stuffed animals. When she wakes,