and she counted contractions as the moon came and went.
She conspired with the window,
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,
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.