I lie on my back on my sheets on my bed—
the baby a regret, the pains a regret.
What was full inside is now outside, on my breast.
The baby slick with blood, the blood like a river,
the fluid that circulates, carrying food and water and breath
and bringing away waste from all parts.
Tributaries, thick with brick-red sediment, clay figurines,
mud that sifts down with the gravity that is my birthright.
The baby’s hair sticks to his head.
His minute-old eyes come up, dark grey,
to look at me for the first time.
And he suckles then, almost without my knowing.
My nipples the size of his mouth.
Forming an O, his lips open to swallow my yellow antidote,
and he brings on the third stage of labor,
the womb caving in to deliver my placenta.
And the ache of the tightening uterus,
the organ that had held and nourished him,
draws together and breaks its betrothal to me,
pulls its stitches out, unknitting itself.
One midwife cleans the baby’s head with warm cloth,
the other squats between my legs.
The afterbirth comes, flat and heavy, slugging down
between my thighs into an aluminum mixing bowl.
There are veins and membranes and red farmers,
dark grass, brown bulls, cords of wood, storms and rain.
The pain of the birth canal ripping—as his elbow caught—
had been astounding.
I’m suddenly awake to it, sharp—cutting sharp.
Needle pierces the lips like memory. Only not as clear as it had been.
Baby sleeping and clean,
a midwife threads my perineum shut,
the puckered tissue between anus and birth canal,
a border mended between warring tribes.
The midwife turns the placenta over in her hands, which are red and silent.
Her eyes remain low, concentrating. She is searching for flaws.
I may not be ready. It is perfect.