Photograph by Jane Burn
Edited by Beth McDonough
More Common in Boys
The paramedic employed
underarm tactics, grabbed
and ran with you
like a rugby ball.
Nine months old,
bare cherub legs
are the last I see of you.
I wanted to wrap you,
guard you from glittered
February air. They still
work on the cause;
the effect, a red-inked certificate.
I thought it would be blue for a boy.
By Kath Whitehead
She’s elegant at eighty, watching
sunlight shift across the lawn.
A cheerful face looks in
‘No visitors today, Francine?’
She smiles a tranquil smile,
no, not today.
In middle age, her small white dog
would sneak into the bed at 4am
and, barely breathing, curl her belly,
share her body until dawn.
Track back across the decades,
people criticised her ‘choices’.
She was silent, held her loss
hugged close between her breasts
and left the room when colleagues
brought their babies to admire.
Their third attempt clung on
for longer than the others.
Still not an inch she saw him,
saw him in the toilet pan,
her almost David, almost son.
By Kathy Gee
This downhill roll
pulls far hills close,
removes the river between the stub field
and the chalked snow light on the Sidlaws. No sense
of that labour through narrows, the dark
which swills the firth,
currents past seal-banks, crossed
by a strength of bridge. No sense
at all. Sometimes that works.
By Beth McDonough
2nd prize, John Clare Competition, and first published in Cake issue 4 (summer 14).
(for Mirjam and Mary)
As your body’s cargo grew to its unloading
and your shape bulked in front of you
till, leaning, you swayed like a ship,
the rounding of your angles was acceptance.
You were nature, your waiting discomfort
justified by your body’s fruit.
Seeing you after, child rooted on full breast
in a momentary stasis that became an ikon,
I forgot the cries and smells, sleeplessness,
no longer calling your soul your own,
the pile of washing never done. I saw
only your completion, a place found in life,
and envied you. Your ground was the whole earth.
By Susan Jordan
The line is softer than we imagined. In time I’ll birth new skin
but for now the sky holds on to its tiny cradle, carefully measured
dark the moon’s taken time to outline. My arms hold nothing
but a need for you. I know now they won’t be filled.
I’d like to explain why they’re already packing you away. I can’t.
The only thing that’s tangible is dawn breaking, birds stirring, still air.
In the night cotton gets washed clean of you, lets it sag without
your spatial guidance despite me. So brief, I don’t remember how
your head laid in my crook or the way you nestled in, how your
hand forms its fist around this first light in hopes it might be kept.
Now I like to imagine the concrete and like the way it hurts.
By Zelda Chappel