Homo 3681 (poetry)
"… a very sensible and ingenious practitioner of physic at Blackburn, in Lancashire… attended the labour himself from beginning to end … he has preserved those five children in spirits; and, if desired, he will send them for the inspection of the Society."
– Letter from Dr Blane to Dr Garthshore, June 22nd, 1786.
They say that you were poor – just twenty-one
when your waters burst five times,
delivering three dead, two living:
the first at two p.m., the last at ten to three.
A perspex frieze of spirit and wet tissue now holds their choral mouths,
their quartered skulls, their scalps restitched like stocking toes:
a weaver’s pride?
I wonder did you wonder
at the kick of her with trousered skin,
at the gully where her heart should’ve been,
at her wings of butterflied bone?
Did you hold your nerve when your body grew each day,
when your clothing was unpicked and then resewn?
When drenched in breeding sweats,
did that doctor ask – prevail– for your consent?
Perhaps you didn’t care for sentiment.
Perhaps you shouldered grief,
lifted pails of grain with eyes smoothed shut and walked the two miles home.
Perhaps you didn’t hear the last born –
poised, the dancer with loose fists -
when she pressed her tongue tip to her pallet
and said ‘love.’