Fire blight has infected her apple trees again.
The milky ooze drips as stigmata
from the infected blossoms. In her dream
she slices into the entrails of a musk turtle,
and what she finds—finds inside the apple-white flesh—
is something living, something pulpy and soggy
with blood, a girl child. After her husband died
she imagined for a time that she was pregnant.
In the woods she gathered bitter bolete,
rattlesnake plantains, goat’s rue. Her dream child
was as small as a fist. She heard once that birds
when they died became bats, which explained
their frenzied flight, their hinged wings.
Once her husband shot a doe and dragged it back
to the house. She was watching from the window
as he knelt down with the hunting knife.
She used to wonder as a child what kept the moon
from sliding on the clouds, what kept the stars impaled
so they wouldn’t slip. Her husband slipped the knife
into the swollen belly. She was watching from the window.
This evening her apple trees are bleeding, and rain drips
as stigmata from the sky. The hoot owl cries out
in her husband’s voice and shames her. She has no choice.
It shames her to say she is happy.
—from Rattle #27, Summer 2007