Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsFall 2016  Vol. 15 No. 2
an online journal of literature and the arts
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When My Childless Friend Asks What the Birth Was Like

and I tell her it was a C-section,
she says, At least your vagina is intact.
Intact like a crime scene preserved by yellow tape
or some distant planet too far for us to fuck up
with our soy lattes and exfoliants. Oh, you! I laughed
because she is supposed to be funny. She, the one
who came back from a semester picnicking on the Rhine
to ignore my bloat until I finally blurted baby!
Instead of Congratulations! she said, I figured
you ate a big sandwich for lunch. Big sandwich becomes
the joke behind my back. My baby is a Blimpie,
a five-dollar footlong. She is the cold cut combo
nobody wants. Everyone told me don’t do it,
like having a kid was some kind of habit
you can’t shake. Maybe that was the problem.
My body wasn’t ready for birth, so I had to be sliced open,
stitched and stapled back together like some
unsalvageable sewing project from seventh grade
Home Ec where one of the three Jackies in our class
encircled my middle with the measuring tape,
and exclaimed, You’re so skinny at my seventeen-inch
Scarlett waist. She was also the popular Jackie, the blonde
Jackie, the slutty hoop earrings so big she’d slide them
onto her wrists when they got too heavy Jackie.
They clanged like some neighbor’s endless wind chime
each time she rose her hand with the wrong answer
because she was not afraid to be wrong. In middle school,
where they taught us how to sew boxer shorts, bake
brownies, and loosen a stuck Bundt with a knitting needle,
they skipped the part about sex ed. Still, it takes me
twenty more years to fall pregnant. Everyone says
they’ll bring us food, but the baby comes with no birth,
no tailgate or fanfare, no tweeting #babywatch,
and no one brings us the food they promised.
We head in to triage on Saturday morning,
routine as, say, a car wash, but there is a set of twins
ahead of us. There is always a set of twins these days.
No one wants to come into the world alone. We turn
our bodies into arks against the flood of amnion,
fraternal mates yinned against a yang. We wait
for two and a half episodes of Law & Order.
Motherhood turns out nothing like I expect
it to be. It is chocolate that breaks apart in your mouth
when it is supposed to be melting. It is unwashed hair
and knowing by heart the best TV to watch
at four o’clock in the morning. Still, I would never
call my daughter an accident even though
that’s what she was. Some drunken crash of bodies.
Hips broadsiding a rib. It’s hard to tell who
was at fault, totaling our lives at a T-intersection. O fortitude!
O fanfare! We have become the minor characters
in our own lives. Everyone wants to know
if I’ll be upgrading to a van, but a van is such
a scary car to drive. I want my daughter to grow up
knowing what to fear. Over-full offices, dates
who don’t have enough to say, and trees that vault
too close to the house. I want her to be the kind of virgin
men worship. To make good on their promises. I want women
to praise her wholeness like an untouched cake
that slips crumbless from pan to plate, to dust her
with powdered sugar, shape of all that is right.  

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