My body opens like a highway sinkhole. It’s a baby someone shouts and I know they are wrong. It’s a baby I shout, still wrong. When I can’t open my mouth any further, the first frog leaps from between my teeth, its head a small lion’s. Hopeful, like a building on fire. Four frogs follow the first, turn to birds that plummet skyward like wanting. Their bodies reach toward the sun with mirrors for claws. I watch my reflection locked into each one, mouth spread wide and terrible, perfectly pink in birth’s afterglow. The smallest bird becomes a tongue, folds into an envelope with a bald thrashing tail. No one says this, but I know it’s empty: our fate sealed inside, an illusion that spits flame.
The dead baby multiplies, stacks itself into a wall of skulls. Orbital holes hold the dead baby’s eyes like planets, like tiny motors purring from inside the bone-studded wall. The dead baby wants to know about ashes and danger and absence and teeth, a litany of what’s left after separation. I’m sorry, the dead baby says from its many mouths. No, I’m sorry, I say, I’m the one who had the dead baby.
STEFANIE KIRBY lives and writes along Colorado’s Front Range. Her poems have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, Best New Poets, and Best of the Net, and appear or are forthcoming in The Massachusetts Review, The Maine Review, The Moth, and elsewhere.