FELICIA ZUNIGA’s poetry has been published in Contemporary Verse 2 – The Canadian Journal of Poetry and Critical Writing, The Antigonish Review, Montreal Writes and Freefall Magazine.

It is February and I have been pregnant forever, Montreal Writes, October 2019

Winter bears down but the baby stays put, he hangs on tight as a migraine
No plans to roam outside in this cold, he holes up in his pot of fluid
I incubate us inside the house, as the blizzard breaks records and entombs everything
Outside the window, I watch the storm’s outbursts, while you stay undercover

He is our first; suspicious of us and this snow globe we live in
He monitors weather warnings, scowling as they say more flakes will fall
When I decide to step outside, he squeezes his eyes shut against the burn of white
Perhaps he wanted to be greeted by heat and honeysuckles instead

I coerce him into a walk and ask, “Do you feel the quiet?” Can you smell the sparkle?
Outside, all is barren. Inside, I am filled to the brim with him
We stumble through snow humps as my bones become numb
He tunnels deep inside, swearing not to surface till spring

I coax him with six sticky sweet Medjool dates daily, hunks of plump pineapple
Where I eat everything including the core, washed down with red raspberry leaf tea
I try to convince him we feast on tropical fruit, surrounded by starfish and seashells
He retaliates by propelling his feet so deep in my belly, I spew expensive snacks

At night, I stuff myself into a pillow fort, wrenched up on my left, while my hips spasm
I cloak him in creamy wool blankets and he plays, satisfied with the sweaty dark
He starts his nightly swim, sometimes he’s too worked up and his hiccups begin
My belly bobbing with each burst from his lungs until dawn

Every morning I rise hopeful, wondering if today he will emerge
Focusing on my feet as I navigate ice sheets on the way to doctor appointments
They poke and knock at your door but you keep it shut, ignoring all visitors
We hear the solid thwomp of your heart and know you must be stowed away

It is February and I have been pregnant forever

Afterbirth, Montreal Writes, October 2019

No one will tell me how many stitches
Are binding my insides together
A running stitch, internal and external
Embroidered inside me where I was once whole
Now I’m spun with black thread
Hostile knots knitted to hidden flesh

*

They say it takes a village, to raise a child
For us, having a child, raised a village
An underground labyrinth teeming with cinnamon scones and witch hazel
Gift baskets branch out on our kitchen table
Packages and people surround us, propping us up with walls of support
So we don’t collapse under the weight of this new life

*

We’ve moved inside, the exterior world no longer concerns us
Only the life we created inside the four walls of our home
The rooms where we now sleep, eat and sway with him
He is the sun we rise to and the moon we rest under
The basement bedroom has become our vacation hotspot
My husband and I take turns kissing goodbye
Before floating down the dark flight of stairs to dissolve

*

In baby class, we go round the circle
Exchanging nap tips and apps like scraps of gold
How to make them sleep is the Holy Grail
We all have black eyes and snag only broken minutes of shut-eye per day
Everyone is pleased to hear they’re not alone; we suffer together
Taking turns tucking babies into wraps and comparing peak crying times

*

He is at the breast again, his favourite position
The books say that mothers should be comfortable, but I never am
Back hunched over in pain as I rush to respond
I fold into the letter C and cater my body to all his commands
He latches and slurps like a king
When I try and move, he hisses
When I try and switch sides, he clamps down harder
Choosing to empty one breast, leaving the other full and leaking
I beg him to stay asleep each time I set him down, but he eats every hour
All the minutes of the night become known to me

*

I see his face everywhere, in unwashed piles of laundry
In the folds of the blankets, in all the shapes of darkness
I wake with a start, panicked, even though he lies in the bassinet beside me
My nipples feel like they are being sucked by a phantom infant
And he’s even followed me into my dreams; I will never be alone again

*

I don’t recognize my body; I am one of the giant mother pigs
Spread out on display at the Calgary Stampede every summer
Piglets attached to each teat, swigging milk as everyone stares
My hair is unwashed and falling out of its bun
There’s jam on my arm and crumbs stuck to me from when I shoved bread into my mouth
My stomach is soft and thick and puffs straight out
The rest of me is swollen, hobbling around the house
I’m scared to cough or sneeze in case it disrupts the stitches

*

My skin smells like spit-up, sweat and breast milk
When I feel damp, I don’t know which of the three liquids stains me
If I dare sleep more than three hours, the stinging of my nipples wakes me
Mother Nature warning me I am no longer here to sleep
I am here to serve.

Moving, Montreal Writes, October 2019

I have lived many lives

A child with knotted stuffed animals
and missing eyes
books and games dented
with bite marks

A schoolgirl with broken hopscotch handles
and purple juice stained notebooks
valentine cards with the slanted scrawl
of long forgotten best friends

A teenager with pages and pages
of diary punctuated with the initials of her great loves
notes from boys revealing all the secret
things they want to do alone together
notes from girls discussing how to do
all the secret things the boys said
they wanted to do

A university student with sloppy essays
slashed with the red marks of professors
eager textbooks bright with desperate
highlighting and mounds of notes reciting
words and meanings you can no longer remember

Old yearbooks, our faces trapped in time
for one perfect instance of youth
and crushing vulnerability
all thrown out in the rush of moving

Long empty bottles of perfume
that still smell like careless high school summers
cheap jewellery from the boy you swore
you’d never leave
swirled together in the vortex of
black garbage bags

I have lived many lives
and I will live many more

Lucky girl, CV2 - The Canadian Journal of Poetry and Critical Writing, Winter 2018

I wish people would quit telling me I can do
whatever I want

I never thought I couldn’t

You’re so lucky you know
            so bursting with luck
A red cherry balloon brimming with magic dust
The gooey white icing on an angel food cake
The silky gloss on the penny you found
That’s what you are

You’re gonna go places
Like Aeaea or Atlantis or Avalon
        You’re gonna have things
Like gilded treasures and
        two savings accounts and
                   more luck

So burdened with luck that my head could
implode from all that good fortune
and pressure and pressure

A red balloon spirals back down to
earth her eager little cellophane body couldn’t withstand the jeers from the clouds
The prods from the wind
             The burns from the planets
                          The cold shoulder from the moon

White icing is always left smeared
on the edge
of the plate
It’s not good for you anyways
they say

And after clinging to your pocket waiting for a clever chance to           shine
the penny looks like all the others
tarnished and brassy and
common


Bad boys, The Antigonish Review, Issue #162, Summer 2010

Sometimes while she scrubs at pots
the steel wool reminds her of their scruffy cheeks
and cigarette smoke reminds her of stale, ashy mouths
which couldn’t have tasted any better

The good ones gave you mixed CDs and smiles
and promises and waited for you
The bad ones gave you parts of their body
and bruised necks and puffy eyes and a rush

The good ones paused at your stoop and only kissed
you politely after they asked
The bad ones rammed their tongue down your
throat and didn’t care even if you said

No.

Not that you ever did
Not that you ever would
Always wanting a bad boy to put his
mouth and his wildness all over you

The innate sexuality of childhood games, Freefall Magazine, Volume XVII, Number 2, Winter/Spring 2008

You never knew when your friend would whip around
bloodthirsty, irritated with time-telling
and suddenly become
the wolf
raise splayed claws and sprint after you
with renewed speed, howling and drooling
until she seized upon the
slowest victim

And what about the one where you squeezed
your sweaty fingers around someone’s
dirty hand and never let go
even when the other team would hurl
eighty pound missiles
eyes stuck squeezed, teeth clenched
until the runner was
pushed down back flat
your wrists moaned and throbbed
but at least the enemy didn’t invade
this time

Do you remember the feeling of being chased
running for your very life
until a hand slashed
at any part of your body and immediately
you were
stiff

frozen stiff

Arms and legs spread as if you were about
to be patted down and searched
until some grimy boy burrowed his head
between your legs
and set you
free