I am grateful holding our friends’ daughter
fails to propel me backward into the dream
from the night before. The nurses had come to say
there was a terrible error: the new life beginning
was not taken away. They whisper like old nuns,
pressing their hands to my abdomen.
Everything, they say, begins here, here.
And I believed them, I believed their blessing.
In the haze of sleep, I trusted in happiness and lies.
And then, the truth—that dream turned nightmare:
how I said “Oh, I think there’s something wrong,”
how there was the blood on my fingertips, my back,
my side, the incision running hip bone to hip bone,
how they removed the fetus not in the womb
but in the tube which was torn out, discarded,
how the blood on the hospital sheet covered everything
I ever wished for, with a color that was deeper than red.
But, here, holding Anna, I am relearning to breathe
with her head against my cheek. Her tiny fingers
unskilled, unknowing, clutch at my maroon scarf,
unwind it from my throat. She’s exposing the wound.
The air is cold. But her small body is whispering,
hope begins here, here, and I believe her.
Christine Butterworth-McDermott is an associate professor of English at Stephen F. Austin State University, where she teaches creative writing, fairy tales, and act as the poetry editor of REAL: Regarding Arts and Letters, a national literary magazine. Her creative work has appeared or is forthcoming in Alaska Quarterly Review, Beloit Fiction Journal, Bellowing Ark, Borderlands, California Quarterly, Fourth River, Gulf Stream, Hiram Poetry Review, Medulla Review, North Atlantic Review, The Potomac, RATTLE, Slipstream, Sliver of Stone and Weave. Select poems have been nominated for a Rhysling Award (published in the 2005 anthology by Prime Books) and have received Honorable Mentions in The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror (17th and 18th Annual Editions). Her chapbook, Tales on Tales: Sestinas, was published by Finishing Line Press (2010). Her first full-length collection, Woods & Water, Wolves & Women, has just been published by her university press.