The Cuckoo Child

Her water had broken,
and she counted contractions as the moon came and went.

She conspired with the window,
the clock,
and the ghosts of all the women in her line,

to hand out some bullshit story and steal away
into the woods.

She sent the doula on a fool's errand,
and dummied up a version of herself to leave propped and weirdly silent
in the four poster at the corner of the house.

How do you feel, they asked the doll, the changeling,
the shed skin of herself.
What a long wait they will have,
for a baby made of goose down and mattress ticking.

Under the trees like a morning dream she went,
as the sun came up
and the river called to her in a language past remembering.

Alone there in a mossy copse,
she bore the child and bit the cord,
blood giving way to a fierce rolling wave of love.

The tiny face, perfect hands,
the soul as open as an April sky,
made her know she could not take this one back
to the house, the keepers, the upstairs corner under the eaves.

Birds make fine conspirators,
and so she slipped her daughter into a nest like a cuckoo,
and, riven with what she had to do, 
carried a stolen fledgling back to her bed.

They took it, as she had known they would.
They taught it,
so well that it never sang a note,
never knew its wings,
the flight feathers plucked by hard lessons and bible spouting.

Meanwhile, she paced the widow's walk like a haint,
ears grown as keen as any animal's,
listening for wings or the call of her own, from out there.

When the house burned,
God did not intervene, but rather,
willed it Himself with a holy delivery of lightning to the cupola.

She was the only survivor,
and she sat on the incongruously wet lawn in the morning,
still as a stone, 

Imagine the smoke-black ruin behind her.
Imagine the wind-stir in the maple branches above her head,
as thin as circumstance, yet strong enough to stop the sun.

Imagine the child appearing from the edge of the copse.
Imagine her moving slowly to her mother,
with the same black hair,
and the same instinct to survive.

Imagine their common language,
without words.
Imagine touch and tears,
and the years ahead like a natural migration,

direction in the dna,
and a way home, at last.

I don't know what this is. It just came to me, wanting to be told.

Note: the cuckoo bird finds another bird's nest, and leaves its egg there to be raised by the unknowing surrogate.



hedgewitch said…
What a seamless mesh of elements, supernatural, surreal, primal, the whole sewing bag. This is truly a gift from(and to) the subconscious, evoking our other selves, or native languages, our pain and our most selfless love. Just beautiful, Shay--with such amazing and original language that it beggars description--and makes me quote back at you:

When the house burned,
God did not intervene, but rather,
willed it Himself with a holy delivery of lightning to the cupola.

hedgewitch said…
sigh...'our' native languages...and what a joy to hear Sandy Denny along with it all.
HermanTurnip said…
In my mind's eye this scene played out perfectly clear. Brilliantly done, my friend!
Joanna Jenkins said…
Whoa! That is really something, Shay. Haunting and awesome.
"Under the trees like a morning dream..."
Hats off on this one.
xo jj
Sioux Roslawski said…
A bit of Sandy Denny, AND a poem full of perfectly-chosen words and images? Wow.

(Isn't this the second serving of Shay today?)
Anonymous said…
this is a memory, or an alternate reality, into which you so often tap, and which I feel fortunate that you've shared ~
Sherry Blue Sky said…
WOW! One of your best stories. It may be that girl child in the forest was her inner child, returning to her, healed, from the place of No Love and no wings and no song. I hope so. Then she can teach her all she has learned about Flying.
Excellent ... thank you !
Excellent ... thank you !
you took me on a journey witht this. i think i have dreamed like this before where all makes no mundane linear sense yet i didn't care because it was such a lovely journey.

This is stunning. And so deeply familiar and true- true deep down in our DNA as women, women who have borne children and been taken over by that fierce love that will do anything that our child may live. But this is also about the imperative of that fierce love for ourselves in connection with nature. But how you say it is incomparably exquisite and sings in my bones. It came to you and I thank you for sharing it with us.
Kerry O'Connor said…
This poem is like the perfect meal for the famished.. 3 courses, an amalgamation of flavours and textures and wholly satisfying.
Daryl said…
i love when you get wordy .. lengthy .. i love the flow ... so involving .. so perfect
Unknown said…
Survivors do what has to be done. You illustrate that in this vivid, modern-day fairy tale. Find a way. Have your say.
Marion said…
Holy shit, what a story! Amazing write, girl. If I had that girl's red hair, I'd own the world and everyone in it. ;-) Thanks for sharing this. It made my day. xo
Lynn said…
A beautiful story, FB.
Mama Zen said…
This reaches deep and primal. I love it.
Kay L. Davies said…
Heartbreaking, Shay. One of those amazing poems that just come to you...and only to you. Thank you for sharing it with us.
Luv, K
Ella said…
Thank you shay! I feel bewitched and enchanted by your story~ I want more!
Susan said…
Told in meters that compel as much as the story, this poem has a new King Arthur, hidden to be safe until time ripens. I love that the mother wishes for a wild nature child.
Lydia said…
Ooh! I am reading this as I wait a bit longer to go out and see the Blood Moon (hopefully clouds have not come in). There could not be a more perfect poem to read on a night like this. My imagination has gone wild!
Sumana Roy said…
we so hanker after the common language without words...
G-Man said…
The cycle of life in a nut shell!
See how succinct you've become?
Anonymous said…
Beautiful, Shay--you take an archetypal story and make it your own in a very special way. k.
Sara said…
It's nice when a poem or story is born full-fledged:~)

I often think it comes from the spirit world. Perhaps some poet long past is channeling. What's required is a mind open, willing to give expression to the words and feelings he/she can no longer write or speak.

Some ignore the voice begging to be heard, I glad you didn't:~)

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