Maternity - Poem by Sheena Blackhall
Joan X and Mary Y were admitted today.
Three hours ago they shared a labour room
Clicking machines, productive screams,
Hot hands pressed like leaves.
One cot empty.
One cot full.
Rain is blearing the window, gumming the sticky view
Cut roses bloom in the ward
Their short, forced flowering fills the room with scent
Red and heavy and wet
Joan X does nothing but cry
She is breaking the waters of grief
Her child was un-becoming
Someone has sent for the chaplain
With words for every event
He will not bring a card
Or a teddy dressed in black
Mary Y does nothing. Her baby came to term
Was born and lived. Sadly, on this occasion
The mother's love miscarried,
Did not survive the labour.
The afterbirth is slippery with guilt.
The living child stirs in its hungry cot
Needy for touch and taking
The tiny hands reach out like tentacles
Its mother is stitched up tight
The Sister bends and lifts the weeping bundle
Places it tenderly
Onto the mortuary slab of a blue-veined breast
The live child lies like ash in two cold arms
Two deaths on the ward today.
And not one easy.
And not one kind
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