I am showing you off.
I am, to my surprise, outside the old office
and have just told my former boss that
your middle name is Alexander.
I barely know you
you are so new
and hidden inside layers
and layers of white blanket.
I am looking at myself
in the mirror, wearing
a black cocktail dress.
My breasts are well-concealed
behind two feather flowers that
move slowly with me, like those
on a boa. It dawns on me slowly
that my belly is huge and round.
A perfect black moon.
The more I stare, the fuller it gets.
I turn and turn and look.
I was sure before I tried on this dress
that I wasn’t pregnant.
The owner of the tattoo parlour
suggests a line of black vines
across my back, entwined with thorns.
The only other detail in her design
is a tiny black dove hanging off the vine
by a small round link, like a key chain.
I’m not ready for this tattoo, I tell her.
But I’ll think about it.
Maybe I’ll come back.
I’ve been counting days again and
have made my appointment.
Ten days from now the doctor will ask
if I’ve taken a pain killer
as he shoots dye into my uterus.
The technician sits at her station
watching the dark blue fluid fill me up
on her monitor. The moment it is released
is an explosion of ink from a squid’s body
a cloud of indigo uncurling itself
reaching its stained fingers out to the borders
of a fetal waterworld
shaped like an upside-down pear.
A cephalopod releases ink to obscure
a predator’s vision in order to make its
On this table, below this x-ray machine,
it is used to uncover what can’t be seen.
I have to experience this violence as beautiful.
It was both the tidal pull and
the waxing gibbous moon —
I could feel I was being watched by
some unseen thing by the lake
you, tiny soul-spark,
who chose me for
the sight of my childish fingers bearing
mountain ash leaves
small hands that couldn’t stop
the birds from eating the poison berries
and later, the keeper of makeshift shoebox homes
for bohemian waxwings
who would smash into the glass
of our living room windows
had I known I would
have been a young cliché
one hand on my belly, whispering
Joshua quietly in my thoughts,
I know you’re there
Preoccupied with cherry trees
and their blossoms, soprano bird songs,
I would have worn trailing Guatemalan skirts,
tinkling bracelets clasped tight on bare ankles
My chestnut chest-length hair
would have hung in loose waves or braids
I would have gladly, anxiously carried
it all too far
I studied bloodlines, theorized
about Moldova and Neptune,
reproduced stained glass icons and
researched Teutonic customs
I wrote endless pages
and not a word in my diary
When the blood had run for thirteen days,
and the doctor treated you as casually,
I continued to cross days off my calendar
in red ink, to better see the end
and didn’t think about you
There’s a little soul in your energy
She said, and I knew it was you
It was a boy, she said
They always come back, you know
and you are suddenly human, twelve
years old, running, running and laughing
You can’t catch me, flying away
until you are nothing but
a tiny dot on a horizon of green,
circling a tree-belt of thick pines
When I close my eyes and breathe
in the scent of cedar
there it is —
the cell memory of
struck like a match:
you, the tiny atom
my own cluster of cells
fragment of a living thing
I couldn’t hold
were, for a time, real
I want you to see me like that again
See me as that young girl with
eyes outlined in wet black,
moist lips, nascent hope,
an open jar with hands soft as
new leaves unfolding
reaching out in season
for errant birds