GestationAfter the third trimester, sickness fades;
kicking diminishes. Needing to breathe
again, in airless panic I stretch out
in bed, coaxing my organs back to life:
pleading with lungs to wake and plant a bloom
in each cheek; promising ribs it won’t be long.
But hasn’t it already been too long,
and still no sign of when it might be out?
More than a year I’ve watered, fed, and breathed
for this offspring, burgeoning as I fade,
expanding as I tend it into life,
greying my letters out, blanching my bloom.
What drudgery to bring a thing to bloom!
I do begin to wonder, as I long
for air, if this could be, not a new life,
but an old master plan to catch me out,
to dim my mind and set my looks to fade,
and finally, to trick away my breath.
I notice that it pains me when I breathe.
Whenever I inhale, an inkblot blooms
behind my eyes, vivid but quick to fade.
Monstering here inside me for so long,
what is this thing I made, but can’t let out;
fostered, festered, and fused to me for life?
Only my child, who did not ask for life
but has it anyway, who cannot fade,
but yet can never spring toward the bloom
of daylight, open eyes, blood, birth, and breath.
I grieve for her; her lifespan will be long
and punishing, and cruel, and wear me out.
I’m welded to her, though; can’t do without
her dark matter, fierce energy, her life
force – they’re the fires that sustain me along
the way, now that my own has lost its bloom.
She’ll boil here quietly, under my breath,
and when she’s done with me, she’ll let me fade.
Could I unfade, remember how to breathe?
Could I break out and claim my afterlife?
Perhaps, perhaps. To bloom, though, takes so long.
Mary Ford Neal is a writer and academic based near Glasgow, UK. Her poetry is recently published and forthcoming in Ink Sweat & Tears, Dust Poetry Magazine, perhappened, Capsule Stories, The Winnow, and Twist in Time, and her debut collection will be published by a UK press in 2021. She tweets about poetry and other things @maryfordneal.
Banner Art: & Baby Makes…: a digital collage by Robert Frede Kenter @frede_kenter