by Ute Carson
"Cliterature," Motherhood, Vol. XXX, Winter 2013

a simple song,
a memory of creation,
a woman's wail the wind carries across the land.
Each birth bears cargo from past generations,
each baby is laden with treasured promises.
Maria called on the strength of the lioness
while giving birth under the fierce rule of an African sun.
Aenne, lavishing in featherbedding, herself severed
the umbilical cord of each of her five children.
Claribel slumbered under the influence of ether,
contractions coming and going on faraway shores.
And Gerda's birth pangs were drowned in tears of sorrow
at the sudden death of her young husband.

Maybe life imposes its will on women,
uses them as vessels, cracked porcelain or sturdy clay.
Birth is women's work, heavy-footed or bone-tingling,
while men retreat, turtle-like,
or trail with helplessly hopeful hearts,
and children burst forth, spitfires or sweet cooing doves.

Under the high dome of possibilities
women dream multicolored birth stories
and conjure up spirits to help them through their labors.
And women own a lifeline,
a throbbing, twisting cord, swollen with energy
which carries all sustenance necessary for survival,
a soft rope of dependency
which must be snipped at delivery
as each baby is launched on life's current
and each woman's belly is crowned
with the mysterious coil of an ending and a new beginning.

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