Treasure Island

Caroline Misner

A Private Adoption

Your moon burst open only once,
even though we should have known better
than to play stranger with strange men.
We were so young.

I escaped unscathed,
save for the scars across my wrist
and the malignant fear
that gurgled beneath the surface
of my skin.
I carried a knife in my purse for twenty years
in case my tormentor returned again.

I got off rather easy, my friend;
your fate was worse.
Who was that boy who seduced you then,
who wore black leather
and sang in a band,
and had a serpent tattooed to his skin?

Now, after all these years,
do you still think of him?
He was blond and rough
with a heart as dark as a coal shack;
he pasted his abrasions on you.
Your type exactly, I recall.

For six months after
you cached your secret
beneath loose shirts, unbuttoned
your jeans at the top,
so no one would see.
No one believed you but me.

One day you denied
anything within your belly grew,
the next day you boasted and bragged
and basked in the gossip the schoolgirls
hurled at you.
The next day you cried.
We walked that winter beneath brittle skies
crinkled and dark like lumpy coal.
I put my hand against your bulge
and waited for the kick of the little drummer
inside the drum.
But we couldn’t tell if the baby moved,
we were so naïve,
we were so young.

You stopped attending school
by your seventh month;
no one noticed you were gone.
You stayed at home, buried
beneath your quilts, too ashamed
to even tell your mom
who left you when you were ten,
and your little brother
who never knew.
Only me and your father
were there for you.

The church lady came,
with her righteousness tucked inside her purse
with her lozenges and keys
and persuaded you to do the right thing—
whatever that may be.

But you had no time for her dogma
and god-talk:
“Jesus loves us, every one, even those
of us conceived in sin.”
What a farce, I thought,
coming from this lily-woven shrew,
this hypocrite.
It took weeks to find a doctor
who would attend to you.

You fell, alone, into a quick routine,
gorging on sauerkraut straight
from the jar and cold pasta
straight from the tin.
And who could blame you?
Considering the state you were in.

Then, that spring, came the day
when you could reclaim yourself again.
You played the song and now
the piper had to pay.
The doctors and nurses
with there silver-plated petals
like tongues, urged you to breathe
and push through the worst of it.

It wasn’t the labour you were expecting,
but then nothing else is.
You huffed and puffed and blew
your house in,
and your first miracle was exposed.
The woman who would be mother
was there to hold your hand.

She cradled the squawking infant before
you had a chance, smeared her
hospital issue smock with fluid and rust
while the tail of the umbilicus still
tethered you to the child,
your feet still in the stirrups,
gutted like a mackerel
from the bottom up.

She held you both, daughter
and mother, and wept,
and thanked you for all the promises
you had promised, and kept.
Mother to a perishable flowering,
she christened the baby Alison.
You never saw that child again.

Two months later, you were still
a woman awaiting her bloom.
Your aunt gave you money and took
you to the parlour to have your hair done.
But the perm wouldn’t take
because of the hormones still in your blood.

Someday soon, a woman
will approach you
and embrace you
and call you mother once again.

Submitted: Tuesday, April 21, 2009

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