Crystal Ellefsen

When my magic runs dry


Pale yellow liquid drips

around her tiny perfect lips—

I barely feel the suction anymore.

Have my nipples numbed? I don’t know.

My body knows what she needs

even when my mind starts counting

the minutes until I can have a break,

create some space around me.

Her tummy touches my tummy,

her hot little hands clutch and scratch

my arm. I need to trim her fingernails.

My son needs more hugs than he knows

how to ask for. I read him books aloud

as an excuse to pull him close. His body

doesn’t need my body with an infant’s insistence,

but his body still needs its mother near,

nurturing, noticing, ruffling his hair, draping

an arm across his shoulders. I am tired

of the touch needed by three children.

Studies show their brains would never

be the same if I withheld from them

my body. They pounce and pull, they curl

and kick. They block my path until I pick

them up, surround their body with warm flesh.

Rest. I need it. I forget myself. I need

to remember to be a good neighbor

to myself. When my magic has run dry

I run to the ocean and beg her to rub

her emeralds all over me. Underwater, I hold

my breath, suspend movement, let my body be

held. Sunlight streams through green

water, wiggling gold ribbons, silent lightning

that stays and sways. I kick kick kick

back to the surface, tilt my face up, open

my lungs and drink the sun.



Crystal Ellefsen is a writer and entrepreneur in San Diego, California. Her poems and short stories have been published in Calyx, Quiddity, Literary Mama, Word Riot, and more. While an undergraduate at UCSB, she won the Ina Coolbrith Memorial Prize in Poetry and was a finalist for the University of California Poet Laureate. Learn more about her projects here: