Woman of the Tribe
It will be a girl, one says, passing
her hand over my belly as I carry
its load up the Cathedral Road.
I see a ring; you will marry. This other
ten years earlier. You will be a teacher
and in the future thank me. The poetry,
just beginning, is memory-pressed,
a nib of coal suffused with burning.
You are lucky, see here – a star
in my left palm. My son is born
full-term but not without a fight,
the midwife forcing her hand into the birth
canal to unhook the umbilical,
helping him come – whether he wants to
or not – to the room, candle-dark,
with its cast of caryatids: a boxer
blue and bruised from the ring,
his own star inked into his wrist.
What they know, these women,
is handed down, inherited, like luck,
a whisper in the DNA or hands
in the darkness passing coins.
They pull us from star to dawn,
promising, prophesying. Sometimes
they are right, light like emblems
about our wrists, sometimes they are
wrong, light closing on emptiness.