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Imagine what it is like even now
When they force a child from a woman
Who lies gaunt and shallow-breathed
Under ether, with forceps clamped
To the dolphin-slick temples
Of the infant still riding beneath her ribs —
Like pulling a calf or a foal with chains,
Drunken farmer staggering in the dust.
But whether ether or C-section,
Does not enduring nature’s long
Jacking open of the bone-portal
Yield up a welling forgiveness,
A burning love that sets in,
When she who curled within you
As she grew, corkscrews
Free of you,
Lying then in your arms,
Finding you with her eyes?
Imagine being an old woman
Who kept having embryos swept from her
By the curette’s blade, or dissolved
In a chemical sea
Before there was any heartbeat
To hear via stethoscope–
Anything as definite and present
As a one- eyed fish with its white tail
Floating on ultrasound black—
How for years you told yourself you did
The right thing, used your Roe v Wade rights,
Its own kind of bravery, knew you had to choose
Between staying alive yourself
And its life, and shamefully, this:
That you were afraid
Of that stranger in your body,
How it might become
Someone like you.
Since, years of lack. Mothering
By default, puppies, foals, goat kids,
Orphaned kittens. Three little girls
In the backseat whose au pair
You were– the delight of them,
Their high-pitched laughter–
The hell of them, your own
Missteps, raising your voice
When they fought
In a hair-pulling melee,
Rending your love.
Look closely at these hands;
See their sprung knuckles—
Come into the room of shadows
Where the replicas of infancy lie:
Dolls of soft silicone-laced vinyl
Painted and cabled together and swaddled;
Little surrogates in bunting, glistening
Eyes, tiny hands, and how many
Of we the afflicted are there now,
Nurturing the inanimate,
Singing midnight lullabyes
To the dormant winter tangle
Where the ripened womb lay,
With her betrayal, her moontide blood.
I often read my mother’s notes
About my birth, perhaps
To discern whether she loved me
Or was merely obeying A 50’s code
for women of her station—that she
Should be glad in her girl child,
Enthralled by her at all costs,
Mothering by Dr. Spock’s
Writs, drying up the milk;
For something would come forth
When she was drunk,
A cinema verite’ gone amok,
Wetly slurring that she was an artist,
A painter coaxing a sublimity of color
To canvas– never planning
To be mother and wife–
If she were a stone
I could break her open
To demand the truth.
If my heart were stone,
I wouldn’t hear someone weep in the night
And my own voice calling back,
As if I had been strong enough all along
To bear a child.
Imagine again, the video, the girl
You mothered a woman herself now,
Leaning back on hospital pillows,
Her blonde curls piled high,
Eyes closed, sparrow-wing lashes
Sweeping her cheeks–
Tugging at her breast,
Then sleeping there sated,
Small head resting
At her mother’s throat-pulse–
What would you call
What you see there—
What you long for,
What you had cut out of you
So long ago,
What possible other name
For being changed forever
By what came from you,
The world itself asleep
In your arms,
Copyright 2017 Jenne’ Andrews
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