Dark (40 Weeks)
by COURTNEY MANDRYK

I want to be under the bed on a pile of newspapers
with my puddle of puppies, some too still. 

The dog knows when I’m home. 
Doctors don’t see in the dark like I had hoped. 

Shine a light, sliding down the whale-belly. 
Try moxibustion. Or a radio at the vaginal window.

          Try thinking of sparrows in flight, or of dogs in an open field.
          No, the dogs don’t hurt the birds.

Fetus curled into me curled into dog:            three commas at night.
Arrhythmic kicking along the dog spine. 

The heartbeat stutters and perhaps, I don’t know, it’s so dark.
If the baby turn blue call 911.                      But all babies are blue inside.

Was that a squirrel in my dog’s mouth, a limp baby I carried
with two sticks, holding my breath?              (Don’t pass out or the baby might be slow).

Epidural pitocin spiral desire.          Heartbeat heartbeat fetus. 
Fear burns the bath water. I close my eyes in the dark.

          Try thinking of swallows, of water rushing over polished rocks. 
          Wash the pain down the necklace of your spine.
          No, the birds don’t fall, don’t drown. 

Was that a limp infant or an I-told-you-so hanging from my dog’s mouth, I don’t 
know.

Google it and see: birth swallow heartbeat stutter elective surgery.
          Did you mean electricity?
Cortisol, meconium, amniotic polenta placenta.

My body a case with blood inside encasing a body with blood inside.
See in the dark: a flashlight over my mountain luring the skittish squirrel out.

One in three will be cut open: the baby a lonely comma on my stomach
as they clasp the uterus purse and tuck me back into my skin. 

The squirrel delivers, the dog delivers, and I. 
Sometimes puppies die. A lavender refrain. 

To be born is to be untucked. Treat bag opened to show my prize to the dogs:
a squirrel baby squirming on my bed.

I put my feet to the sky, shining flashlights.
Big dog shadows shift on the bedroom walls.
COURTNEY MANDRYK has an MFA in Poetry from the University of Michigan and an MFA in Art from Cranbrook Academy of Art. Her work appears in the Michigan Quarterly Review, Cimarron Review, and Cream City Review, among others. She lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan.