I have come to take your place, sister
At the high fire in the forest's heart ...
Anna Akhmatova, 1912.
If I could take your place, daughter,
to relieve you of the quickenings at midnight ...
to rise, put on the kettle and wake him from his slumber.
To ignore the 3am bustle of midwife and husband
and the sleepy, friendsome dogs as they stir.
And when amniotic rushes to the bathroom tiles,
to look in the mirror and to see your eyes changed from blue to bright green,
to experience the veil between this world and another fall away.
to feel your drum-tight belly ripple like sheet lightning
and your cervix stir deep within you.
To drink bittersweet lemon and honey tea,
to feel warm hands on the small of your back,
to know that all your bones are parting ways,
to think that you are actually going to die,
and finally, in the crisis, that it is just not going to fit!
If I could, daughter, I would take the pain away.
But I can't. It's your turn now. This is the way the world has always rolled.
And so, instead, I take the kitchen stove apart, scrub the oven, polish the stainless steel sink and sweep the gum leaves from the doorway. I wash clothes, evict the spiders and flies and stock the fridge ... and all the while I am heavy of breast and feel a strange, old ache in my womb.