A Brief History of Birth, Episode IX

Geneviève Paiement

your grandmother’s curlers her worn pink polyester
bathrobe drape an altar at the coast of snakeskin your
grandmother’s ammonite shell on hands and knees

dragging Virginia Slim through coral lipstick scrubbing
Hail Marys til they ignite your grandmother’s rosary
her nylon stockings torn at the nape of what haunts

her smelling salts repaying a toll of ancient bells your
grandmother pulling back the tab on a can of Schlitz
wading unsteady your grandmother in deeply saddened

streams picks at the seam of her grandmother a girdle
its leaky raft her grandmother bears a changeling alone
spinning sweat into tendon your bones your grandmother

rides a Singer sewing machine to the first fish ever to
walk on fin her grandmother self-taught amphibian great-
great-grandmother of mud and slime who had her own

reasons to clamber for teats your grandmother whispers
to the fresh limbed swimmer who is shaped like a pair of
forceps who is everyone’s great-great-grandmother she

is bleeding at the lip but nothing remains of the blood since
this conversation was not recorded for training purposes
since it happened inside the mouth of a rotary telephone