I get your text this morning,
cancelling Wednesday –
your son’s girlfriend is delivering early –
she’s been ambulanced to Melbourne with placental blood
down to her ankles.
I burst into tears even though I have never met her.
It is too reminiscent of my own birth,
our bath piled with blood-soaked towels
marking my imminent arrival,
the whole house shaking with terror.
I nearly killed her with my eagerness to be born.
She nearly killed me with her eagerness to be empty
while my sisters never let me forget.
As I came to term under glass, I risked the judgement of science
and put a spanner into domestic bliss.
Shaken with the intrusive clamour of being alive,
too fragile for the workaday world,
I shed my rough red skin by squalling out of spite.
I was the ghost of reflections made large
in a nursery full of the nearly born and the nearly dead,
the frost breath of masked attendants
quickening my pulse through the glass.
For the longest time, I was laid with mechanical hands
on a rough schedule,
rubber tubes spiralling out of my body
my father delivering expressed milk
in the evening on his way home from work.
When I returned to the hospital at seven
I remembered the blackness, and nothing else –
my psychological birth into a void.
My parents brought me a mechanical
monkey with a tartan waistcoat
his shuddering gait gaining the front step of the hospital
whilst my momentum was winding down.
On the first night, I cried into the blackness –
I was born into domestic turmoil
Where a spade was not a spade,
my every move watched by the weird sisters
who would have cut off my budding self,
but that job was already accomplished by my mother
who needed perfection like other women need air.
Her eyes were always unchained, digging deep,
gouging flaws like cancers,
a spectacular satisfaction guiding her words,
her gaze, her social misapprehension
so profound not even a shrink could sink to those depths
and still come up for breath.
My sisters were always careful to twist my braids
into familiar patterns,
to bite where no marks would show,
to hold me down until I cried
when no one was watching. The whole tribe
had a casual mode of abrogation
which reigned until I turned red
with an allergy that split my skin
and then it was because I was too strange.
Down to the clothes on my back
and the hair on my head
and beyond even that I was the subject
of a communal flank,
a Greek chorus
and an army of nay-sayers
who couldn’t wait to say no.
Not so much a void as a pit
but black all the same.
When I came to make my way in the world,
the colour stayed with me
grabbing all the hope –
my psychological birth into the void.