Eleanor Hooker

You hear the mare before you see her,
hooves thudding, pocking the field,
You stand still, turn your back

until the galloping slows
             slows         and     finally stops.

Your baby kicks the snowfall dusting
the landscape inside you. The midwife asks,
would you like to know if it’s a boy or girl? No.
Don’t you think her heartbeat sounds like a galloping horse? Yes.
No, that sound is a Harpy’s snatching wings
poised for flight. Thief!

You feel the mare’s warm breath in your hair,
the rough scold of her forehead nudging

your back, insisting you turn to greet her.
Reflected in her eyes is the limit
of your curved horizon. She lowers her head

until you stand forehead to forehead, neither of you move.

There is no movement, has been no movement for hours.
Snow gathers, deposits blue ridges
at your baby’s cold forehead, closed mouth, cold feet.
You hear a terrifying wail and wonder if it’s you.

You walk the field’s perimeter, the mare

at your right shoulder. She shies at a frog

in the grass and the sky falls out of the sky,
drops rain on your upturned face and hands.

Your partner lies on the bed beside you, your foreheads touching.
Not deaf, you hear the talk beyond the curtain—
sedate her, induce her, no, if it fails
we don’t do caesarian sections for dead babies.

Babies cry in the nursery.
In a tree outside the window, the Harpy screeches.

You stroke the mare’s flank,

read the braille of her ribs, press your ear

but cannot hear her foal, too new yet to be noticed.
The mare leans into your tender touch.

Snow melts.
Your baby sinks to the bottom of the liquor pool,
drowned and decomposing. You are an ossuary.
He brings the baby’s new white clothes.
The midwife warns they might stain.