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PRODUCE

The girl in my womb cries wolf
through ten days of false labor.
Overfilling her space, I realize
this is only her first rebellion.
Already she measures me,
and feeds on my spirit from her tendril,
like my grandmother fed generations
from her root cellar.

Stone stacked on stone and dug in deep,
even the morning air kept to midday.
Wooden planks sagged under
her sacrifice of vegetables,
tightly packed in brine,
and berries sealed by paraffin.

I want for this daughter
to make a place for self-preservation.
I shore the ceiling with cedar posts,
sweep the floor of matted leaves
and packrats nests full of hickory nuts,
and turn over the planks to correct any warp.
Overhead on a shelf,
protected inside a spider's house,
I save a blown robin's egg,
a broken porcelain doll,
mussel shell buttons
and a cardinal's wing.

      — Deborah Q. Smith