Three Poems by Elizabeth Weaver


psychotic denial of pregnancy

My sister has a hand-sized birthmark the color of blood on her neck
where the umbilical cord had been wrapped around her—her fist 
beneath, first of many quarrels with the world 
for a redhead born against the August heatwave and into this

family. That day I had a fever, sprawled across found furniture
and crying for a missing parent, who was at the hospital
this time like she should have been when I was
born, too, if she hadn’t already begun hearing voices

by then. Decades later I’ll learn the terminology
for my arrival, at home, no one 
and no way around. This is not a contest
but we are siblings, so it feels like a fight 

for my life. And that is why, forty summers later, when our mother is found
with a dead cat on her floor, asking Jesus if he will bring it back
and my sister wants to call for strait jackets and the dead animal
a metaphor, I am saying no: this is not some symbol for what has gone too far

only now that we’ve searched inside the box. I say what she is rooting around for  
is our mother, all of us even alive, around here somewhere.

Poem for the Children I’ve Chosen Not to Have

By the water I saw a woman bleeding 
but untroubled, red liquid branching

down the inside of her leg until it mixed with 
the ocean and was not just no matter worth

fearing, but no substance at all
dissolving, a hushed thing to bring to her

attention. That was when another woman 
stepped in and swept the dark 

towel around her and I saw the first woman
was all of fourteen. How had I not noticed that

knobbiness of elbow, awkward way her body folded
and disappeared in the boldness of daylight, but I hadn’t. And what

of me, who had been a girl standing starkly in the place
where air and soil meet nothing, starless shadow of a woman

pooling across the sand from behind me wherever I
plant my feet. And let her be. Blood doesn’t have to

mean injury, doesn’t always mean
there’s a mother not far behind.

Trial and Error

There are fixtures you need that might be absent 
from a house where the owner doesn’t want to live
but my mother had fashioned, through hooks and crooked

nails, window screens to protect us at least 
in shared bed spaces from parasites 
that flew in at night, thirsty 

and undernourished. It was the little
she could do above the droning
of the voices she was hearing. Those screens

were torn already, and suddenly I was
awake and itching with hunger where sleep was
otherwise salvation during our years 

of DIY. My brother was the only working adult 
at seventeen, saving for an electric guitar to teach himself: Should I
stay or should I go now? But my mother didn’t know

about that, the Devil’s music, and stood over us at night, her
shadow stirring me when she said aloud, in the darkness of my fever
and swollen neck, God, if it is your will only then let her  

live. The wonder was not that I woke up in the morning
but that I went back to sleep at all, because 
believe me, if I could have I would have slept 

through all of this, even now, dreaming
of joining the Ramones—
inspired bands my brother did. Instead I watched her strip

the splintered floors of a place we barely rented 
and she both darkened them and made them shine.
With nowhere else to go, my brother’s rage became permanent

in marker, all caps, WRONG AGAIN
and remained on the wall when the landlord sold the building.
They had to tear it down to get rid of us.

Elizabeth Weaver’s writing has appeared in Barrow Street, Dressing Room Poetry Journal, The Journal, The Paris Review, and elsewhere. She was born in Ohio and in 1994 moved to New York to earn her MFA from Columbia. She works as an adjunct at several public colleges in New York City.

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