The imaginary baby

Put a pillow under your t-shirt. Turn sideways and look in the mirror. This is not what it will look like. Hold a stuffed animal in your arms. Turn it belly up and cradle it. This is not what it will feel like. Pee on a stick you made your friend buy for you. This is not how you will know. Put on the paper gown, sit bare-assed on the paper-covered exam table, lay the paper drape over your lap, and wish for Scotch Tape to hold it together. This is not something you can complain about. Answer the question the doctor asks about whether you have a boyfriend. This will define you for him. Answer the question about how long you have been sexually active. This cannot be answered correctly. When it is over, go home and lie on your back with your hand on your belly button. This is not the time to wonder if you want a baby. Wonder how it will feel to conjure eight pounds that will tear you to pieces. This worry will weigh more than the baby.

 

The rebel baby

The rebel baby is a mole. He wears a red scarf and has fins for hands. His eyes are fused shut. He probably loves you, but the doctor says it’s not a real baby.  He can’t stay. Still, you tempt him with ice cream and soda, hoping he will show himself, or at least stop digging. When he doesn’t, you smoke a cigarette and drink a bottle of beer, thinking you might convince him that you’re unfit. The mole baby sits in the dunes of your uterus and basks in your bad habits. The doctor says the mole baby could be dangerous. You feel bad for the mole baby. You sit with him on the fire escape and watch the women with strollers walking by on the sidewalk below. They don’t see you because they don’t look up. Their babies are tented with pastel blankets for protection, so you flake the paint off the fire escape and send it raining down. This is your way of saying goodbye.

 

The beginner baby

When she emerges you are straitjacketed into a snuggle for your own protection and rolled together into a cold, cobwebby dawn. At first, you stumble through an inarticulate starvation as you gather materials for the weaving you must make, which comes out a yellow-white liquid spun with gold. By day, you are the emperor’s new body, perched on a distant rock, watching Macbeth performed by a troupe of players just out of earshot, drifting in a milky tide of human kindness. But by night you struggle to learn the strokes necessary to stay afloat. Your new muscles have no memory—arms, belly, nipples, and soul—and you paddle for dear life. Her language is spoken in song and tears and your accent, tainted with Thai noodles and shadows of bare January oaks, reveal your origins. When spring comes, the sky has been empty for so long you forget to look up, but you are grateful for the warm air fanned in by the hands of the clock. Still, you are afraid. You want them to tie you to the bed again. You want them to roll you back to where you can’t do it wrong.

 

The grief baby

hope comes in purple           despair, grey         blending into a bruise that you lose:      flowing, red                     what does the inside of a body look like?      empty and not empty             alive and not alive        skin glassed in sweat                       a museum of vertebrae and lips and follicles what is the word that means hello and goodbye together?     you want to tuck into a jar under the sink                   put on the gloves and scrub away      layers of neglect, layers of growth   hang their binaries from a subway pole                pregnant and not pregnant               blood and no blood           all stuck in rush hour      running dark and underground                 you have not been announced  you don’t have a key      tears of rage rot                and smack like fruit to the ground     they drown in their own juice   so sweetly

 

The nature baby

When she arrives her typeface is painted in an alien alphabet with ascenders of relief and bowls of fatigue. Her stems reach over your head, and her serifs wind around your finger. Her syntax springs outward like a toy, then snaps in again, each minute the lifetime of a flower on fast forward: bloom, close, and bloom again. She desires to leave the ground. A sunshine ninja, she wields time as a weapon, swirling it over her head into a blur of hair and holidays and songs learned by heart.  Her euphorias come and go like Wednesday dinners—her utopias are celebrated by apocalypse. As the sun sets, she gathers rocks in the yard and dumps them into your lap, weighing her own nature.

 

The infinite baby

Your last is dark—dark haired, dark skinned, dark eyed. Her sleeping face curves into dark moons and her eyelashes fan out like those of a goddess in a book with pages so thin they blend the writing from two sides of a page together. She speaks in forgotten songs, sweetening your grocery lists, rattling your car keys, messing up your bookshelves, making the cats meow at the door. She is true color: the green of the phantom, the red of the queen, the blue of the philosopher, the orange of the poet, the yellow of the dreamer. She is conceived of rapture and spirit, a vampiric desire beyond your body who creates art with no materials: no canvas, no paints, no pen, no name. She is pure future carved just beyond time in a place that can never be, and can never be lost.

 

© Christina Kapp
[This piece was selected by Damyanti Biswas. Read Christina’s interview]