TW: ALLUSIONS TO LOSS OF PREGNANCY, BIRTH, DEATH (POSSIBLE INTERPRETATIONS, INCLUDING WARNING AS THESE ARE SENSITIVE TOPICS).
for all the children i may never have. (or: psalm 127:3)
“here is the deepest secret nobody knows…
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart.”
-- e.e. cummings
i knew your name as a prayer
before i knew myself as having
existed. you came to me in a
dream – small dark hands,
suckling mouth. your name is
holy yet when i speak it, the
tongue cannot help but fold
back on itself and curse the
ground, spit and flood my
empty womb so there is no
food, only sputum and wine.
my mother was not the type
to eat her young, so she raised
feral daughters. i, in turn, hold
you by the soft of my mouth and
do not stutter but swallow you
whole. in this way, loving you
was easier, my second born.
with you i did not go without.
you are not the first boy i’ve held
in this body, just the first i dared
give name to. your birth taught my
body to contort to make way for
ashes, to begin reincarnation, this
time as something worthy. when you
came i peeled the taste from my
mouth and offered it as tithe but you
would not have temporal bread.
the half of you has never been told
and i am not fit to tell it. when you
call me mother i am transported to
another time and place, before the
flood, before this grief slithered in,
took root in my stomach and rested in
my ribcage. i am filled with memories
of you like sage and holy water;
please do not take your spirit from me.
Ashley Ward (@ashleywroteit) is an emerging poet from Austin, Texas. Passionate about advocating for social justice, he work often centers love and equity. She has been published in various journals and is a Best of the Net 2020 nominee. You can find more of her work and publications at www.ashleywrote.com.