- Stillborn, and: A Well-Regulated Society
But howsoever, they dye like rotten sheepe noe man dies, but he isas full of maggots as he can hould. They rott above ground.john baldwin, a letter from Virginia, 1623
I, too, have taken root, like a sore vessel unaccustomed to the sea.
Last night I found a stillborn swaddled with the branches of a cherry tree.
It is spring so the white blossoms scent the skin, making people who hurry by my home think it is just another flower. However, in the moonlight the babe’s skin is too silver against the white to think this, the silver saying never was and the white saying only for a time.
I cannot pull my roots out, not even with my teeth in the ground. [End Page 72]
A Well-Regulated Society
on Sorrow by Vincent van Gogh, drawing of Sien Hoornik
If our society were pure and well regulated, yes, then they would beseducers; but now, in my opinion, one may often consider themmore as sisters of charity.vincent van gogh
There is no room for you at the inn. Or in the stable, for that matter, where horses break the air with their woolen breaths and shuffle in the mud.
When you were a child at the orphanage a nun wore a pouch of coins at her waist and it rattled like music when she walked.
Mornings, you wake under a bridge or behind a shed. Stone on bone, pressed cheek to cheek in your sleep. The walnut tree on the hill, the rough grass under you, carve their lines of bark and blade into your skin beside a fallen wood fence.
At the seashore you watch sky and sea merge, the horizon blur. You are pregnant with your second child. When the tide recedes it leaves small bodies in the sand, a shell, kelp, a rotten log. Unlike water they stay still.
You are coral with no tentacles. Men slide right off when finished with their anchor, their brief respite. Is it grace to give someone all they want and nothing more? [End Page 73]
You smoke a cigar in front of the fire. Peel potatoes. Mend a bonnet. These things fill hours, but your sorrow— it is a bone in your body that connects to the others, allows the skeleton to work.
You pose for him and you create edges, your body speaks its shape. Rock and flesh, little else. A portrait made still life, your body an apple on a table.
During dinner he cuts your daughter’s food into small portions for her. You cannot look him in the eye. Your daughter plays with beads on the wood floor. She touches one and it rolls like a galloping wild animal out of the room, out of sight, as though it has been reborn into a life we cannot see, and have no reason to believe in. [End Page 74]
Kassandra Montag lives in Omaha, Nebraska, where she works at a medical library. Her work is forthcoming in Ekphrasis and has appeared in South Dakota Review, Platte Valley Review, Ellipsis, and Menacing Hedge, among other journals.