Expectant; or, American women are more likely to die in childbirth than women in any other developed country and black women make up fifty percent of those mortalities

by Camille Dungy

When I reached St. Peter, he was too small
to crawl. I introduced myself
as someone’s mother,
and he consulted his big Book of Roles.

Stand there, said Peter, pointing
to the line with all the other hopeless

But, I said, I’ve been there all along.

The woman in front of me had been reading
Lamentations for hundreds of years.
I needed to hear my baby breathing, but couldn’t
over all her tears.

Give me a ribbon, said Peter,
who sucked the silk.

Give me your hand, said Peter.
He suckled my thumb.

My hair still grew fast as a pregnant woman’s.

My fingernails, short when I arrived
that evening, needed cutting soon.

Give me your papers, said Peter.
Then he gummed them. I don’t trust my eyes,
he said, but believe in this mouth.

Give me your heart, said Peter.
I hadn’t slept that long in ages: five hours,
six hours, seven.

Stop this, I said. Stop now.