My bad dream baby is a daughter.
My belly waxes like the time-lapse Moon,
The husk of my womb breaks open.
Other times she falls like midnight snow;
I wake to the sound of her breathing.
The stage is always dressed the same.
I’m locked in a seventies motel room
With bricked-up windows.
Above the candlewick bedspread
A bare bulb swings like a noose.
Her crying splits me open.
I look for her in the drawer divan,
Check the bedside table and the mini bar.
In the mock-rococo wardrobe a blue-skinned Kali
Juggles formula and baby wipes.
She came to me again last night,
Brown curls on dimpled cheeks,
Pudgy hands outstretched, calling ‘Mummy’.
I took a pen from the pocket of my white coat
And made a tick on my clipboard.
I am tired of carrying the weight
Of what I have to tell her.
Breaking the news of death is performance art.
Young medics rehearse in front of the mirror.
How do I tell this stranger
As close as a heartbeat
That she will never be born?
© Helen Lewis, 2009