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Reclaiming my roots by Julie Hathaway

Prenatal Exposure

by Maeve Coughlin

Each night I sing you a lullaby

For seventeen years

I have been kneeling by your bedside and

whispering to the back of your scalp

as if my voice will bandage your insomnia.

You tell me it does

because even in suffering from my selfishness,

you are selfless.

Tonight, I’m singing you

“Little Lion Man” by Mumford & Sons.

I’m mumbling the lyrics so maybe you won’t hear them.

I’m not ready to tell you that it’s my fault,

since I’m a coward and

a liar who’s been lied to.

It’s a safe pain reliever in pregnancy

Your daughter will not suffer and

no one will ever know you’re an


But I’m ready to apologize for it:

for the anxiety attacks and the nail biting and the

feeling lesser than your classmates.

“It was not your fault but mine.”

When you were little, I searched for answers.

I scoured for someone to blame.

I found my answer

in an old blunt, poorly rolled, fallen behind my vanity.

Seventeen years ago, I quit.

didn’t want you to remember

I was too high for your delicate little hands to reach.

I stopped

too late.

“And it was your heart on the line.”

You tremble in your skin

while you pick it off your fingers.

You make yourself small

so maybe your brain will

remember to make your body breathe.

After years of being told it was

some higher power,

some twist of luck,

some brutal misstep in your DNA.

“I really messed it up

this time, didn’t I, my dear?”


About the Writer...

Maeve Coughlin is a senior creative writer at Douglas Anderson School of the Arts. Her work has previously been published in Elan's volume 36, issue 3. She is a writer of both poetry and prose and intends to work in the editing as an adult.

About the Artist...

Julie Hathaway is a 12th grade student at Douglas Anderson School of the Arts. At Douglas Anderson, Julie creates paintings representing queer joy and the healing of generational religious trauma. She creates art, generally with acrylic paint, because she likes how expressive paint strokes can clearly represent these unspoken feelings.

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