Giving Birth in a Time of War

Giving Birth in a Time of War

Image: “Unveiling” by Genice Grace, oil on canvas, 2003

for Lola Fely

It would’ve been a week before Valentine’s
when my mother was conceived

when red roses were replaced with

bombs and Japan and America and the Philippines
all crashing in communion

between Lola’s womb and the choice
of my mother’s spirit to consecrate this vessel

***

After her husband left she emerged into the light
and wondered where the sun had gone

blood orange behind an ashen fog of
bomb wisps and shell droppings flittering snow

her tresses catching dust and gunpowder flakes
Her man had gone underground uncertain of his return

This was how the world had fallen apart
the crumbling old pages of an ancient book

we no longer possessed the language
to comprehend 

***

Lola was in a bedroom at home

Her childhood home or her husband’s home

– I cannot remember what Lola told me

though I was also there inside my mother’s egg

waiting to be born

***

Children were birthed at home
not because of choice

but because hospitals had been bombed

My mother did not slide out easily as Lola clenched her fists
dripping feathers and sweat

with ropes of cloth tied
to the corners of the bed

She never forgot the pain (as women are otherwise told)
and never forgot the restless knocking

of the bamboo fountain outside          each little bucket filled
with water and then toppled and released

wood against wood knocking endlessly through the night
my mother’s newborn screams reflected in the knocking of

wood against wood while the spirits of her aunts
swirled and echoed in the knocking of

wood against wood         they who had been hung
by their ankles

They had just arrived
relaxing inside the blue light

only to be pulled back from the depths
through their niece’s arrival

to experience war

all.                   over.               again. 

***

They would be she and she would be they
but even she would accomplish what they never could

bewitching the hearts of Japanese soldiers who
instead of

tossing her delicate little body into the air

and catching her on their bayonets

would be mesmerized by her baby eyes and baby cheeks and baby giggles
These same cretins in uniform would want nothing more

but to tickle her cheeks and say
Such a pretty baby

Her aunts with their long temptress tresses
could not have done what she did

Those same degenerates of the Imperial Army
hung them by their slender ankles to the trees

their hair cascading down        onyx waterfalls

until their souls would finally make their escape
into hers                                     into mine

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