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“Sea Bands” originally appeared in MQR 57:4, a special issue on Caregiving, guest edited by Heather McHugh. The full issue is now available from our archives

I got them first to navigate the waters
of pregnancy, so I could ride the subway
without gorge rising, without feeling faint.
Gray elasticized wrist bands with a white
plastic bead sewn into the middle to press
the acupressure point between the cords
on the underside of each wrist. Always wear both
or it won’t work. Constant steady pressure
on the points will take away the stress response,
will take away the feeling and the fear of feeling.
I worry they identify me as fragile,
a wimpy woman prone to fainting spells
who carries smelling salts in her worn handbag.
The bands peek out from my sleeves,
not quite the same shade as my sweater,
not quite covered by bracelets. Evidence
of old wrist-slashings, I think—fragility in extremis,
giving in to the desire to give up entirely.
While I carried my children, the bands were badges
of some sort of honor, as if I needed
a reminder that my body’s upheaval had purpose.
Now at forty thousand feet they are a godsend,
orienting me to myself, positioning
a part of me that can take good care,
that doesn’t really need the beverage service Right Now
or free wifi, the part that is grounded even a mile up
in the air, and up in the air
when flying is called for.