Birthday tales

They were living, she tells me, beside a ravine –
one room upstairs. They tied strings across the ceiling,
strings and strings again, overlapping them into
a lattice of shadows, a web to hang their lives from –
lights, mobiles, clothes, and finally my cradle.

She won’t say much about the birth,
about pain that racked the bones of her back
till they blanked her with gas – white shadows descending
from a thick black ceiling – though she’ll tell me how
he pushed past nurses, was only stopped
by that last, locked door.

She doesn’t describe the first teating,
how that toothless small mouth grabbed
with surprising bone at transparent skin
which reddened, cracked, finally yielded
to the rhythmic, gentle draining, the water of sound,
shows me instead the photos he took
through the glass, the card from my wrist
he pasted beside them.

Now, on my birthday, if I want to know,
she’ll tell me again of the room, cradle, photos,
all she now remembers, what she chooses now to know.

As I, today, tell stories for my daughters,
but also for her, of the cramping,
the tearing, the suckling, the cries,
the man beside the birthing bed,
teeth marks on his hand –

And then we’ll both recall
how they held our daughters out to us,

placed them in our arms
like chrysanthemums.


I testi inglesi di Pandora, Birthday Tales, The Moth sono desunti dalla raccolta Paper Affaires  e pubblicati per gentile concessione dell’autrice (copyright Susan McMaster)