“Birth/Butchery” By Jessica Spruill

For reasons indeterminable, my body
refuses to let go.
Cradling the child in its hard bones,
it clings to his frame wedged
in the rigid canal of my unyielding womb.

Soon they will strip me of his small form:
lance the abdomen, the muscles, the uterus;
grasp head, limb, torso; rip him wailing
into the sterile white world waiting
to teach him to breathe without me.

Sever the cord, stitch the seam.
I shiver, vomit, clench jaw—
refuse to relinquish the unforgiving cries
conceived of fear and loss in my chest,
never to be borne.

Emptied, I hold
what I still can inside me.


Jessica Spruill is an assistant professor of English at Alderson Broaddus University in Philippi, West Virginia. She earned her MFA in poetry from West Virginia Wesleyan College. Jessica is a poetry editor for Heartwood, a literary magazine in association with the low-residency MFA program at WVWC. She also founded and curates Wordstock Wednesday, a literary reading series which hosts local and Appalachian authors. Her poetry has appeared in the Pikeville Review and Still: The Journal.

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