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The Phantom Pregnancy Speaks from the Belly of the Nun

Beyond the monastery walls there is a row of apple trees.

Was it the communion bread that woke me? In her mind

it was the seed of Christ. Beneath her robe a shirt woven from

horse hair scours her belly raw. Her want for a child was so great

it was the wolf’s howl at the orchard’s edge. Like a spirit

in a haunted room, I whirled inside her until the ceiling raised

and the woman loosed her belt. And then the days were quiet.

Many months I stayed with her there by the window, needle-

point in her lap. And as she worked, her hair shirt rustled me

to sleep. She has never known a man. Yet surely soon

the other brides who bring her tray of bread and butter

will gather at the door, wedding rings clinked to their

crosses as they raise a hand to their hearts, ringing the bells

of astonishment. Surely their eyes will be opened. The wolves

grow impatient in the yard. But in the evenings when we are alone

together, she gathers her woolen robe at her hips, slips her hand

to her belly beneath it, and there is a certain warmth I have grown

accustomed to and which stirs me, I would say, if I had a bone

in my body, to my very bones. I am ashamed, after all this time,

to slither away as I must and leave her deflated on the bed, her

wild eyes searching the room. Beyond the wall there is a row

of apple trees. She believes in me. It is good to be believed.

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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