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This Is What I Have

ISSUE:  Spring 1980
Crones support her in birth
so when the head appears
she does not topple from her squat
and snap it off.

Women who give birth the same year
are sisters the rest of their lives.
All big-bellied ladies brew beer,
laugh aloud cautiously, dare not
give the child a name.

When the drink bitters,
the child’s eyes open and
the breasts seep with milk,
the mothers throw the first stool
into the river, singing:
even this small thing lives
in spite of you, cruel god.

And if the child grows, one night
the grandmother will waken him
to tell tales into the embers
until the old woman’s teeth loosen.
One by one, she will give them out
saying: for you, child, myself.
This is what I have.

And the child will string them
on the twist of hair
that falls from her,
promising to wear
the ivories into age.


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