Bearing Down

If she bears, she’s crisp rotundity
of an unripe pear, a head
with coronet of hair clinging to a neck
like willow leaves.
Else the chopping block, and we
count ourselves among the blessed
to wriggle out of this alive,
to the inchoate cries of the child
ignorant of its part in the play.
There is no strand of history
that doesn’t stink of consanguinity.
Whelps lie in the straw of the red barn,
prolific leeches swim in the pond.
At menarche we circle death,
our girdle of fierce pain mysterious
as migraine or rheumatics in the rain.
The mothers with their ringed hands,
the crones with beads of jet and bone
spoke birth and death so jealously,
I thought the world wept
when the gutters overflowed.
Swinging my arms one summer day,
I gave myself to a yellow-haired boy
and waited guiltily for blood,
anatomizing nausea
in the haze of cigarettes
that floated from Memorial Day
over the new green of lawns.
And dreamed that bearing down
was some unwieldy thing
portentous as a shriving
and wily as the river,
that turns and turns about.


Carol Alexander’s work has appeared in a variety of anthologies and journals, such as Bluestem, Canary, The Common, Mobius, Poetrybay, and San Pedro River Review. She has published a chapbook, Bridal Veil Falls (Flutter Press, 2013).

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