Sweet Child

She lies on the bed
under cool, crisp sheets,
head cranked up just so, thin thermal
blanket just enough to
keep off the hospital chill,
and feels the dull, throbbing ache in
her crotch.

The pills, though, are working,
keeping the worst at bay,
and it will be better, soon.
Everything will be better now.

They almost hadn't made it.
She'd been in labor
for three hours
before He brought her here.
Just her luck to drop the pup
on game day, He'd said.
There'd better be nothing wrong
with the kid, if she wanted to keep
her guts in her hide,
He'd said.

She looks at the vase of carnations
and thinks of her rose bush,
her crimson pride, with blooms as big
as cats' heads.
She thinks of how the petals looked,
sifting through the air
like bloody snowflakes
as He tore it up
because she hadn't spent
enough time on His
tomato plants.

She smooths her hair
carefully, covering
the bald patch in back,
the size of a half dollar,
and wondering if the hair will ever grow
back.
He'd looked so surprised when
it had come off in His hand
that time she was trying to
escape the strap.

This is her second trip to
this hospital.
The first was for the
abortion two years ago.
The child would have
been healthy, but a girl,
and He had been insistant.
The nurse had held her hand
as she'd cried, trying to soothe her.
How could she tell the sweet woman in
white
that they were tears of joy,
knowing that the little girl
would never be under His control?

This time, though, she'd gotten it
right.
How He'd crowed over the sonogram,
showing it to all the
men at work, pointing out
the all important shadow blob of penis
that made it worthwhile in His sight.

No more body blows, it might
injure the unborn heir.
Instead the bruises on her
arms and legs thickened.
Still, the slaps were a little less
vicious,
almost playful at times.
At last, it seemed, she could please
Him.
After the years of carefully
prepared meals smashed against the wall,
carefully cleaned and ironed clothes
torn from hangers and dumped from
drawers,
after having her head pushed into
toilet bowls that did not sparkle
to His specifications.

Odd how things could be changed
so profoundly by a creature
with no hair, no teeth, able only
to squirm, cry, and suck.

The nurse comes in,
loose wrapped blue bundle
in her arms.
"Hello Mama. Junior is hungry."
Junior. Of course He named the baby
after Himself. Her opinion was not
asked,
nor wanted.
With gentle efficiency the breast is bared
and presented
and the nurse leaves to
bring another miracle to
it's maker to be fed.

She guides the swollen nipple
to rosebud lips.
He fastens quickly and
begins to pull strongly.
Intent on getting what he wants,
his sturdy legs push
against the soreness of her belly,
and she winces.
But she forgives him.
His carelessness in innocent,
he does not know that he can cause pain.
Others do not have that excuse.

She watches him feed, and
tenderly strokes his naked
head, seeing the pulse beneath
the skin of his vulnerable
soft spot, where the bones
have not grown together yet.
She smiles as she thinks of
bringing him home.

All His relatives will be over,
none of hers.
He made it clear enough
they were not welcome long ago.
There will be noise,
confusion.
His mother will begin
the long process of
pointing out her failures
as a mother.
The baby will cry, tired
and fearfull of all these
enormous people.
He will berate her for
not keeping the kid quiet.

She sees Him playing with
the baby,
finally touching a living creature
with gentleness and love.
She imagines Him bragging
at work, showing pictures
of Junior propped before
a candy colored landscape backdrop
in the Sears Portrait Studio.
She thinks of Him standing at
the baptismal font,
shoulders straining a suit jacket,
as crystal clear salvation
trickles over the baby's head.
He will love this child,
because this child is so much
a part of Himself.

The baby sleeps now, belly full.
She presses a feather kiss
to a delicate pink hand.
"I love you, too, sweet child,"
she thinks.
"You are my salvation.
I can go on now,
I have something to live for."

When the nurse peeks in,
she is touched by the sweet,
dreamy smile on the mother's face.
What is she dreaming of?
His first day at school, goodnight
kisses,
perhaps, far in the future, his wedding?

She is dreaming of that day
two months from now,
perhaps three,
when she will go into
the nursery,
take the pillow,
and press it against his*His* face
untill he*He* is silent and still.
And then she will wait
behind the nursery door
with the pistol in her hand
until she has heard Him scream
just once...

She is singing to the baby.
"Mama loves you, sweet child..."