New verse by Dunedin writer Emma Neale.
Last night in my sleep
my baby’s father came
to take him away from me.
I had borne a boy
I was forbidden to hold
though his mouth was sere and sore
and golden colostrum welled in me
like the cells’ own cry for water.
I had done some terrible thing —
and as I slowly woke to it,
groping for knowledge as if for watch or lamp,
the baby gazed at me
with ancient desperation;
yet flat, dim shapes dragged me back
as my breasts wept runnels of milk’s white lava;
and the new father spoke
with the crackle of plastic,
swore the new mother could never
bear to see me; said I’d signed a pact
to render my child unto them
as if the body were merely an ice cube mold
that only had to heat and flex a little
to release its self-compacted pockets
of piquant, enigmatic sweetness.
When I truly woke
and both real sons crept in close beside me,
tousled heads bunting the crook of my arms, my neck
like young steers remembering their udder-honey,
even then, the scalpel of loss hooked deep, scored deeper —
even now, something naked, lowing and primate haunts here
terrified of what truths speak through dreams.
Emma Neale, 2018
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