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Song of the Stillborn
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Song of the Stillborn


I lifted a calf from a barn floor

and despite its mother’s refusal

left it for the pigs. They would not gather, no,

would not come from their pens

to feed from what had been offered.

The cord was wrapped around the still-dripping calf,

tongue unraveled, torso spotted with vernix.

I could have bound rocks to its ankles

and trusted it to tumble into boulders, break open,

become food for bottom feeders.

I could have built a fire, body lifted by smoke.

I did neither, no, I fit it back into the warmth

of its mother’s mucus, and rested its chin

on her swollen belly. I could have cut a seam

in the belly of that dead calf

and placed the cut to the mother’s nipple

as if it would could come alive there and feed.


That Summer my son was putty in my hands.

He came from brackish waters,

eyes nested with terror. He came

as one comes wailing from resurrection.

I lifted him from my lover’s breasts

and despite the voice inside me saying run

don’t ever look back, prophesied prosperity,

likened his hunger with mine. Bit him by the heart

and smoothed the impression into a seamless dimple.

Reader believe me: I

did not take the mother in the holler

and put a bullet through her brain. She was no

longer milkable, yes, and her calf left

for the buzzards, yes,

but there's something beautiful about a body

picked down to its spine.

How it carries its shape.

How it softens over time.

(Published in Nimrod)