they prophesy over me, saying
when are you getting pregnant?
how long have you been trying?
my womb, a chrysalis where
I might morph into woman.
breasts with something to do,
milk to make, a king’s mouth to feed.
yet there is no movement inside
this belly, no nausea to wake me
every morning into hope.
so I told him today
go to her,
go to her and make me a child.
choking on rosebushes
as the words left my mouth,
my teeth thorns.
now I simply lay here, my arms
shriveling into branches, fingering a dusty pool
of memories. when night falls I am locked
into sleep, a dark storm of swaddled bodies,
sweated tongues, lips bit into kisses.
there, in the turning, her moans
thunder across my heart, flashing me whispers
of the famined life to come.
there’s no surviving the death of a child.
I have been many things: sister, wife, lover;
the woman who laughed at God,
and wanted fertility treatments.
but never this madness, this sacrifice.
you were the gift of old Christmases,
a memory to be born, my promised starlight.
the first time I gave you up almost killed me
as you left the cradle of my body, now pruned with age.
the second time, I didn’t expect to outlive the day,
heard your coffin clap down
on my heart when the commandment came,
resounding into womb, into wailing wall.
for three days my eyes traveled towards the mountains,
praying for a change in the wind, a breaking of God’s heart.
when the hills finally smoked,
sent up the sweet savor of scorched flesh,
I fell into my grave with dry sobbing sounds.
tears would not come–
how can one ask again
for a river in the desert?
Nancy Hightower’s fiction and poetry has been published in Strange Horizons, Word Riot, storySouth, Gargoyle, Prick of the Spindle, and Bourbon Penn, among others. Her eco-fantasy, Elementarí Rising, just came out with Pink Narcissus Press. You can see more of her work at Nancyhightower.com