As for giving birth, I know only what my mother told me.
It’s like coming to after your own martyrdom.
Surrounded by blood, excrement, gauze.
No sainthood in your future, but an etherized bliss
if you thought to slip the night nurse a twenty.
It’s pure butchery. The speculum, the hook, the clamps.
It’s a marvel anyone chooses it. She only had the nerve
to do it that once. I am lost in her telling of it.
She recalls the hospital bed. Her wedding ring
on the table. The husband there for decoration only.
The doctors breathing heavily under their masks,
wrestling with something. The butterfly tongs.
Not the mountain that moved between her legs.
That soiled the bed. Not its heft. Not its silence.
Only that after, there was nothing for her
to hold. She’d been split down the middle, and the thing
she was so eager to meet, a black-and-blue lump—
her pound of flesh. Thirteen pounds, to be exact. Taken away
by a nurse. After all that labor she had not a person but a wound,
and no poultice for it.
This is what ruin looks like, she says, touching her body.
Here is her broken tooth. The zipper-shaped scar climbing
from white hair to navel. The shift in her gait. She bled
forty days after. Her bladder tilted and stayed.
What do I know of birth?
I, who have done only the leaving, not the losing?
Who have had no surgeries, no hospital stays?
My very health an insult. What do I know? I know
what it is to be severed. I know the sweetness of milk,
the weight of a hand, the havoc my body brings.
REBECCA CROSS is a disabled poet who works as an editor in Vermont. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The Woven Tale Press, Breath and Shadow, and Always Crashing.