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)