I've never given birth.

Please forgive me
for mistaking
long walks
for children.

I find soldiers, rattles,
teething rings.

I wear bonnets
on rainy days

when river mud
is indistinguishable
from water.

If I drown unexpectedly
send bibs
in lieu of flowers.

Please forgive me
the strays. Animals
are often the warmest

But if I had a child
I'd run with the same
wild indifference
as a boxer.

And when the children cross
with pets in their arms
I think of how quickly
we become muzzles
in this belligerent world.

Forgive my decision
to leave the swaddling
for stitched bellies,
frizzled hair.

Whenever I look
into a mirror I look
into absence, how the fullness

and brightness of a bed
or saucer necessitates
the transparency

of things that cannot
give life.

If I were a branch, I would be
mesquite without leaves.

Why is there no word
for the male equivalent
of 'spinster'?

Sometimes, fresh from the levee
they ask for water.
I remember how I bathed you
with two quaking hands.

In a way, I was doing the math
for your eventual flight.

I used to think there was nothing
more cruel
than the transposition
of parent and child.

But what of the childless?

What of baskets
filled with painted eggs?

What of funerals
where the only light
sprays from grieving mouths?

The river abandons its banks.

We become strangers
to each other or brothers
who have never shared a meal.

We are pregnant with something
but it is not life.

Copyright © 2018 by Rodney Gomez. This poem originally appeared in Citizens of the Mausoleum (Sundress Publications, 2018). Used with permission of the author.