It’s the end of winter, cold. But I haven’t felt it. I’ve been in bed for a week, lying under wool and feathers. Keeping warm, keeping still. I am a forest creature, denned down. The midwife said no lifting, no exercise, no intercourse. I read books, I drink water, I listen to my children playing behind the closed door. They laugh, they scream. The girl says she is the Queen of Cats and tells the boy he is the King. He gurgles and grunts wordlessly. He comes to me when he shits, when he needs milk. Then I send them away, promise food after I’ve rested.

The naked branches of the elm outside my window are beginning to bud. I remember lying in bed watching this happen when both of them were newborn, the daughter and the son. I remember wreathing myself around their tiny, pink, mewling bodies and nursing them both in their own springtimes, as the earth thawed and the air began to smell of greens, yellows.

Dusky red buds appear now on those slimmest sticks, like blood blisters. And I say the names I’ve chosen out loud, whispery. The girl name, the boy name. Names that will wither unused.

*

There is blood, under my fingernails. Blood, rimming my cuticles with fine, dark lines. Like redblack threads. I think that I could peel them from my fingertips, embroider with them. I could pull them each through the eye of a sharp needle, use a scrap of soft, worn denim that I have stashed away in the top drawer of my son’s dresser.

I could embroider a small heart, not the simple, childish shape but the complex anatomical organ, a likeness of the real drumbeat heart that was nested, almost a secret, behind my pelvic bone. A small heart.

Or maybe a tiny bird, with delicate wings thrown into an arabesque. I think of the baby like that, this baby who is not. I think of the baby as a little bird with feathers the colors of blood. The pinkish blush that first stained my underwear, the rusty swirls in the mucus that kindled hope, the bright scarlet that rivered from me. And the redblack of the clots that made these threads around my fingernails and underneath them.

*

The blood clots. It pools in my belly, in the tight fist of my womb, and is expelled. Too much blood, too fast. No time to become fluid. The blood comes in large, soft, liver-colored masses. Like over-ripe fruit they drop from my body. I startle each time one emerges, falling into the cold water of the toilet bowl. I make a little noise, a little animal noise.

I reach into the water, I cup a clot in the palm of my hand. I inspect each one, searching for traces of fetal tissue. I soap my hands, I dry them, I return to my bed. I should get a basin, a bowl, but I can’t bear the thought of descending the stairs and climbing them again. Everybody else is sleeping, my eyes glint in the dark.

I clutch the hot water bottle to my belly, snatch at a sibilant dream. Then I’m awake again, plunging my hands wrist-deep into the cold, cradling the blood.

*

My other miscarriages were earlier in pregnancy. They were late, heavy periods. I had cramps, not contractions. There were two, between the girl and the boy. I had been reading obscure books about Russian folk magic. Thinking about what my grandmothers might have done. I marked above all the windows and doors with daubs of my own menstrual blood. Maybe to ward off wolfish winds, evil eyes. To keep the house safe, to keep my body safe inside of it. To bless.

The word bless comes to us from the Old English bletsian, bledsian. The Northumbrian bloedsian, the Proto-Germanic blodison. All meaning to mark with blood, to make holy with blood.

And blood comes to us from blod, blodam, bloet, bloed, bluot. From the Proto-Indo-European bhlo-to. To swell, gush, spurt. That which bursts out. From the same root as bloom.

*

The fetal tissue starts to pass. Fleshy colored and grayish instead of the palette of pinks, rusts, reds. These scraps of my baby are not recognizably human, barely animalian. They are small, sticky. They cling stubbornly to the pads of my fingertips. There is a black dot in one of them. Maybe an eye. Maybe a starlessly black eye.

I bury the fragments of my baby in my garden. The dirt is damp and I have to dig away a thick blanket of leaf litter. I choose the place where enormous, glossy, firm, wave-edged mushrooms appear every autumn when the rains come. There is an old, very large tree root below and the mycelia have been feeding on it and fruiting faithfully for years.

I bury the remnants of my baby there. Now my fingernails are rimmed with soil instead of blood. Dark, brownblack threads after I wipe the mud away. I could embroider a little rabbit with them, a little rabbit burrowing into the underworld.

I soak the cloth pads from the beginning of my bleeding in a bucket of cold water before I wash them clean. I pour the bloodwater into the garden. I will be planting here in another month or so. More herbs, beets. Blood feeds the soil, it will feed our family.

Blood marks this earth, makes it holy. Blood blesses.

 

 

 

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© Anna Lea Jancewicz