For the Labor Ahead
A pregnant belly invites the hands of strangers
groping in grocery aisles,
triggering memories of older mothers:
nostalgia for long labors, war stories,
poured out in wistful tone
at the feet of new arrivals to our alien land.
I forgo the tales of first labor, second, third.
I congratulate, then plant a seed for later:
at five months, maybe six,
you will look down and panic,
realize this being must come out.
Come back then if you like.
Then, when you have panicked well,
I will open my unwritten book for you.
I will talk of water, its gift of weightless labor;
evening primrose oil, squeezed from seeds
the showy yellow weed–
sundrop, King’s cure-all, fever plant–
to thin the veil between your child and the world;
raspberry leaf tea, the “woman’s herb,”
discovered by the gods upon Mount Ida,
its fruit’s juice, the blood of kindness,
its brambles keeping evil out.
This tea gives strength for what’s ahead,
the thrum from your core
pushing child toward air.
But for now:
Read your books.
Paint the room.
Get the crib.
I will wait for the 3 am text,
the look of terror in your eyes.
Only then can you hear
what you need to know.
We will be here when you need us most,
with knowledge only we can offer,
given in darkness and whispers.
When we complete deliveries–
maseca, dry beans, rice–
to doorsteps, where women
hold infants behind closed doors,
never sure if the approaching car holds
ICE, the landlord, worse–when that is
done, we float onto highway, you,
15 now, wiped clean today of casual rage,
unburdened and again my child who
never passed handwritten signs on cardboard,
pulled me back, again and again, insisted
we leave a dollar, offer lunch.
From the silence:
“There are people in all these cars.
Maybe that one in the silver Honda
just filed for divorce.
Maybe the black sedan has cancer.”
I play along: “Maybe the Focus
carries a mourner. eyes red from crying.
Maybe the hatchback–
a new baby, parents
terrified with wonder.”
Silence settles except
the road noise
click of turn signal
and the howl of every person
on this stretch of highway
shaking the car until
we have no choice
but to listen to their cries.
© Patricia Davis-Muffett
Patricia Davis-Muffett (she/her) holds an MFA from the University of Minnesota. She was a 2020 Julia Darling Poetry Prize finalist and received First Honorable Mention in the 2021 Joe Gouveia OuterMost Poetry Contest. Her work has appeared in Limestone, Coal City Review, Neologism, The Orchards, One Art, Pretty Owl Poetry, and Amethyst Review, among others. She lives in Rockville, Maryland, with her family and makes her living in technology marketing.