When I was nine and the doctor
told my mother she might be pregnant,
I collapsed rigor mortis on the couch,
back to the fetus stage,
in a kind of faux fainting from the movies.
I had a set of rosary beads that were two feet long,
each bead like a bauble, a giant Catholic moth ball
which I'd spin in circles like clicky-clacks around the house.
I took them downstairs and locked myself in the bathroom
and got down on my two insect's knees
and asked God not to make my mother pregnant.
I wanted her to myself, like I could imagine wanting anyone's love
for their own, I knew at nine I was not polyamourous,
could not share my mother's lap with another,
her dome entered, exited and sealed air-tight
by my conical head. I could not imagine this child
emerging from that trunk, placed a "No Exit" sign on her crotch,
a tangled forest of hospitals and monitors. Keep out.
My father had lost his job that month,
an economic failure, we could not support a human
as if it were trip to Florida, a bonus,
and we gathered up our resources and saved the photographs.
I think my picture from that year was discarded
along with sympathy notes: too virgin, too virgin, as the flowers
of my own prepubescent bouquet. So that when the pregnancy test
purchased from the local Shop Rite had proven medical experts wrong,
we celebrated and my mother sighed and opened a box
of old Godiva, but before it could be offered, to take a bite
of this shared victory, I went back to the bathroom and asked God
to put the baby back. I could not do this alone, could not be perfect,
could not be hers. But God did not put that baby back, or at least,
back in my mother, because I, her only child who took that chess piece
and placed her womanhood in check, as guilty as any child
who thinks they've altered fate, knew that my double was somewhere,
out in that world, walking on sidewalks and enjoying jazz music,
appreciating my mother's love without me.