They said she was stuck
as though she was a nine-pound human fork
pronged in the dishwasher,
an umbrella that wouldn’t fold to size.
I pushed until I thought I’d turn inside out
and yet she sat in my cervix for hours,
as the contractions collapsed on me
as they talked about the knife.
Second time round, the sour sensation
of complete idiocy
for willing this pain again, going through it,
risking so much for someone
who remained at the fringes of knowing,
ghosted by awful wisdom
that birth isn’t the end of it, nor the worst –
episiotomy; infections; afterpains; breastfeeding.
But my body remembered,
it took the first shunt of his head, yawned, then
toboganned him out in a gush of brine,
red as a crab. I remember his arms
like socks full of eggs, muscular, fists bunched,
as though he’d been prepared to fight.
Carolyn Jess-Cooke is a poet and novelist. Her second collection of verse, Boom!, will be published by Seren Books next month.