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I Would Not Offer to Disquiet Her

…with more strivings, but drew the child leasurely

with the crochet.

—Percivall Willughby (1596–1685)

By the time I was called for, the child

had lain too long in the womb parched

and drained of all humidity. I found

the woman’s belly still as stone, ointments

placed on her body to cure the scent from the child

cracking inside her. Hastily I compelled her to take

a liquor of milk and pepper, and busied

the midwives with warming bricks in the fire

to place at the poor woman’s feet. I bade her

close her eyes to sleep, and thus she set her head

upon the sheet but could not submit. The metal hook

warmed in my hand. I saw her eyes grow troubled

and I shut the door. In the dream I have of this moment

a ball of yarn is tangled deep inside the womb

and when I pull, pinned to the yarn comes a child’s ear

like a wrinkled dress on a clothesline. And then

a pair of lips that ride the length of the thread

and into my hand like two birds perched upon a branch.

Like this I pull again, pull until I see I am stitching

a child into the air warm as a crocheted blanket, and when

it is finished I place it upon her bed, and she looks

upon the bundle wherein lies a tiny wrinkled foot-

print, proving theirs was once a moist union

in which for many months the child swam

and swallowed. And the mother is warmed

and sleeps. And the hook cools. And the mother lives.

from Paper Doll FetusFind it in the library

Copyright © Persea Books 2014
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Persea Books.

Published in Cynthia Marie Hoffman Poems

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