Song for Julia

Song for Julia

The wind howled around the public housing high-rise
kicking up swirls of snow,
pushing at the apartment windows, insistent and noisy
but Julia didn’t care about Lake Erie’s blowing snow
as she snuggled up in the antique cradle
tucked into heirloom Vermont blankets,
colicky and wide awake for hours and hours.

I cooed, hummed and growled
snatches of cradle songs
supposed to sooth, heal and relax.
Then I had memories
about honey-infused whiskey
used by my grandmother for all pain.

I bundled her up,
tucking in blankets,
sure that only her mouth would be open to the air
as we took the piss-stained elevator
into the drifting storm.
I felt chilled and absurd,
the two of us cuddled up
against Lake Erie’s fury
with Julia perfectly still,
a shield to the wind
I ventured outside with her on my chest.

I sang to her again, sotto voce this time,
barely heard against the winds
now non-tunes of harmony,
open-mouthed yet softly voiced
to assure her it was time for sleep.

Back in the apartment,
I peeled off layers,
laid her in the cradle, so carefully,
barely daring to breathe.

More than fifty years later,
those enormous eyes mesmerize,
staring up at me as she started to whoop
a gusto that rings in my ears today.