May 8, 2013

Death Stalks the Pregnant Woman: sestina

I have seen the end of life in its beginning
labor does not always end in birth
The snake that swallows its own tail
turns inside out, and death
stalks beside the pregnant woman,
stroking her hair with crooked hand.

The perfection of a motionless hand,
cold, without a chance for a beginning
Torn from its home, a woman
who crossed the street and earned a birth
under duress.  She also approached death;
we waited to see the coin fall on head or tail.

A tiny form, tucked head to tail
contorted on imaging, yet with hand
untouched and small in death.
Denied a beginning,
instead a cesarean still-birth,
Torn from her home, a woman.

Life has forever been the work of woman
alone, much as a cat that cleans her tail,
or sometimes a midwife to attend the birth.
With others there to lend a hand
more infants survive a perilous beginning
but still some mothers bleed and hasten toward death.

So many ways that death
courts the expectant woman:
vomiting empties her in the beginning
pre-eclampsia threatens at the tail
or hemorrhage spills blood through the hand
of the midwife who attends her birth.

The promise of an infant makes birth
a worthy endeavor, even when death
stretches out a reaching hand.
So many sacrifices asked of woman
and given gladly in anticipation, despite the tail 
of life visible in its beginning.

Giving birth is not benign for every woman:
Death is always close, like the snake swallowing its tail,
stretching a hand toward those two lives, beginning.

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