Siddhartha Gautama was born from his mother’s side.
In lean times, plants so split.
The pup of a new one tucked
like a hexadactyly under her petal skirts.
The seeds that are made of one woman alone
in the desert; no bees, no man.
Just a copy of her own genes.
Just a chance to begin life again,
Who would take such passage?
Gamble that the next adolescence would be less painful,
that the arc of history will continue to bend,
the pay gap close a little more.
Women free-bleed and free-birth and free-feed
in the streets of the new you’s adulthood.
One day black walnut trees
will break my heart. They do already
remind me of you, Daddy.
I saved an article
about what makes a predator:
every man starts in
boyhood but then
I didn’t read it
I deleted it (by mistake)
and can’t find it again.
The boy from the new family on our block
wears a blue coat to play
in the alley as though the alley
is not a street.
Inside my car, I see the mother’s furrowed brow,
her hand outstretched against his chest
to hold him back.
Somewhere else I learned: The Myth
of The Good Man is hurting men.
(What is it that we mothers and daughters
are meant to do before
it’s too late?)
The trees are dark
and swaying. The boy waves.
She will look for the baby all night.
She will ask if we have any children
to get ready
for school in the morning. If the boys
have gone home. She will tell you
the apartment is not hers. It
belongs to her dead,
now un-dead, brother; later, to an unnamable
friend. She will say that they have taken away
half of her
house. The units are mobile and recombined
at will. She will say that she
That she wants you to visit again soon.
She will explain how she reaches for you
across the cool plane of night:
little girl, asleep
on the other side.
The lining of my womb thickens while
the lining between the world and me thins.
I am air, now, a sponge multiplying herself
on the seafloor, spores currented back and away,
I am a crescent moon whisper thin,
that baby born without a rib cage,
a fluttery organ under papery skin.
The movement of me is trackable to the world.
The veil is thin. I know what the tree feels
the moment before her leaf drops.
I woke up in my grandmother’s body.
I woke up with her pain like a cat
purring across my throat.
I woke up haunted,
carrying saddlebags of grief and fear:
cloaks her memory throws over me. There’s
a roaring inside my ears collected
from the shells she held for me to hear
how many oceans lie within. My breath
as deathly still as the wind
in my earliest memory: her body
was my shield, beyond the windowpane a battlefield
of broken branches. The earth keened
all night into the yellow sky.
Now, she whispers. This
is the Eye
Girl, Age Seven
a red swimsuit cutting blue water
body a long obedient rope
delight in them
it has taken me years to recover!
rage at your
teach you nothing!
insist that you soften
give to your brother
take up the space of yourself
in the world! trying
to make an echo
you will hear all your life
I’m not learning fast enough
to be kind
Whitney Roberts Hill is an MFA candidate at Queens University of Charlotte where she is working on an autofiction novel, Leda. Her poetry, fiction, and nonfiction has appeared in Streetlight Magazine, Life in 10 Minutes, Nanny Magazine, The Mighty, Jars of Wine, and more. She is a reviewer for the American Book Review, and a former editorial assistant at Qu Literary Magazine. Whitney is co-editor of the forthcoming anthology Unspeakable: Stories of Infertility, Miscarriage, and Stillbirth, from L10 Press. Whitney lives in Richmond, Virginia. She is at http://www.whitneyrobertshill.com/.