Poem a Day, page 150 (May 16)
The older women wise and tell Anna first time baby mother, “hold a stone upon your head and follow a straight line go home”
They give her no instructions on what to do after, how to hold it, how to nurse it, how to clean it, but she still knows it will be alright. She has seen dozens of babies born in the village, has seen many many women younger than her take care of their children well and grown them up to be adults too, so her, first time baby mother despite her grey hair and beginnings of wrinkles at her eyes, she knows she’ll be just okay.
Anna takes it home, holds it in the corner of her arm, not on her hip like she’s seen others do, but still tight to her, because those other babies were bigger, louder, pinker when they showed up. This one’s still quiet, kind of grey, and it don’t move much, but she figures it’s just sleeping. Babies do that a lot, they sleep a lot, and they fuss a lot, so she’s just happy right now that this baby ain’t fussing much yet.
She takes the baby, which was heavy and hard inside her and somehow feels so much lighter and softer now that it’s outside, she takes this baby and when she gets home, careful walk to hold baby in left arm and hold stone on head with right arm, magic wisdom ain’t to be fooled with, she takes the baby, still not fussing, still a good thing, still not trouble, still she’s better than all the other mothers, she takes the baby and wraps it, warm and tight and cute, into a blanket and lays the blanket beside all the other blankets on the floor, and she lays down on all those other blankets on the floor, for her place, her her home, is just a hut, really, no fancy doors or windows for Anna, the town stranger, the oddity, the outcast, who has lived over here at this edge of civilization for all of her forty-three years, first as a child with her own mother then with her brother who took care of her after mother left when she was six, then by herself when that older brother left a decade later.
So now she has some company, finally, someone who will stay and help her have a talk to, someone who will tell her stories, and look at the stars at night and draw water from the town well and hear her lullabies, and so she sings one to the baby, still, still, still lying in that blanket, still not fussing, blessing, and the tired from the birthing takes over and she sings softer and softer and then she drifts to sleep, lying on her pile of blankets, lying on the dirt floor of her hut, lying with a companion for the first time in a long time, lying to herself.