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When I Hold Her

By Bethany Jarmul

PROMPT — What is Love?

When I hold my 18-month-old daughter, chest-to-chest, nuzzled against my neck, forehead pressed against my cheek in the rocking chair where I used to nurse her, feeding her need with my need —

When I hold her, I ache for us to be one. Once, she was inside me, part of me. She ate what I ate, felt my fear and joy dancing in her veins, kneed my spleen in surprise.

When I hold her, I want her skin to dissolve into my skin—porous bodies and souls. I want to eat the sweet-and-salty smell of her sleep. I want to inhale her babbles, giggles, squeals so they are the air I breathe.

When I hold her, I wonder if other parents feel like this or if it's a brokenness within me. For she is her own being with a life that will grow slowly away from its roots, away from me.

When I hold her, I’ve felt this feeling before—read a poem so poignant I wanted to burn it so I could eat it, filling my belly with its carbon embers; warmed by my grandmother’s lemon cake in not just stomach but soul; soaking in the view of Niagara Falls, desiring to fly through the water like a heron or a salmon.

When I hold her, I am a part of beauty, power—of her.


Bethany Jarmul’s work has appeared in more than 50 literary magazines and been nominated for Best of the Net and Best Spiritual Literature. She has chapbooks forthcoming with Bottlecap Press and Belle Point Press. She lives near Pittsburgh, PA. Connect with her at or on X: @BethanyJarmul


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