Chicago, Illinois, USA
Poet’s statement: This poem suggests, from the point of view of an uncomfortably pregnant near-term woman, a possible origin story for humans’ upright posture with its ironic disadvantages for pregnancy and childbirth.
|At 38 weeks, wondering
How many legs
does God have?
Two, you say, of course, like us.
Or did we in his image graze once
peaceably on four,
viscera comfortably slung
beneath far stabler spines?But Eve reached up on hind legs for the fruit,
with a first look at her appley breasts.
He flipped her on her back
and made Cain, whose giant head
all stuffed with murderous knowledge from the tree
would scrape unhammocked
down against her pointed bones,
feet tangling with her ribs, her gutted lungs.She’d carry him in front until,
grinding brain on bone, she’d scream him out
uphill, through stirruped legs,
cracked coccyx, forceps, fear,
into their new, laborious, human world.
The Virgin Mother
Photography by Suzanne Gerber
CATHERINE BELLING is an assistant professor of medical humanities and bioethics at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago. Her training is in English literature and her research is on interpretation and anxiety in healthcare and bioethics. As well as many journal articles, she is author of a monograph, A Condition of Doubt: The Meanings of Hypochondria.