Twilight Sleep by Marion McCready

Twilight Sleep

Its tiny hands, curling like feather sticks,
wave above the cot.
It seems to know me.

My baby appeared suddenly
the way a toadstool appears overnight
in a garden. My little puffball,

my stinkhorn and witch’s egg,
my death cap.
My destroying angel

has a toadstool head.
They took him from me. For three days
I lay in this damp bed –

the Firth of Clyde stretching before me
in all its medical glitter.
Somehow I lost my shoes.

Barefoot, I ran across motorways,
ran up the grassy hill, Tony calling
on the phone. I don’t answer.

I can’t remember the last time I peed.
Nightly I’m giving birth
though the baby never comes.

And the wooden doll beside me
grows woodier by the day.


Honey, could you open the suitcase
and get me my head?

I woke with a sharp pain –
they injected me.
I woke the next morning –
they brought me my baby.

I am flat and light as the horizon.
Where did the baby come from?
It evaporated in my belly;
turned into a fog
and drifted through my skin.

What a din of hospital trolleys
and cry of squeaky wheels.
The smokes of winter rise
like incense from the tarmac
outside my window.
A night
has dropped out of my life.
An infant pulled
from between my legs.

I lie like a female Christ –
marks on my wrists, my ankles;

There are two of me now –
the one who gave birth
and the one with a stone baby
calcifying inside.

My body aches and burns;
the bruises talk to me.
I came to – hair and makeup
fixed in place.
The smell of lambswool
makes me vomit.

The baby at my side is a dummy;
though it moves and wails.

I stroke my sunken belly –
for I feel it growing still;
growing and stretching
inside of me.


Marion McCready lives in Argyll. She won a Scottish Book Trust New Writers Award (2013) and the Melita Hume Poetry Prize (2013). She has two collections of poetry published by Eyewear Publishing – Tree Language (2014) and Madame Ecosse (2017).


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