Liz Quirke – Counterfeit

483

Easy as talk at a child’s party, I cluster as one of their number.
When the men fade, attention turns from woman to woman, lap to lap.

I do not surrender my baby to the communal hold.
“Are you tired? Is she three months?”

How these words shape me. They set me up in a hospital bed,
girded, pressing, sweat and spit when the contractions build,

tears when the work of my body is over.
Two small questions assume the set of my womb,

the establishment of milk, a healthy supply
given the child who gums into the fabric covering my shoulder.

Propriety requires my answer to be my lack
of sleep, chapped nipples, swollen ducts,

all the bruisings and restitchings of childbirth. I hum and rock the baby,
knowing the moment my interlocutor sees through me.

The line of her lips tells that she knows the lie of my body,
sees camouflage in the extra weight at my hips, subterfuge

in the curve and sag of my breasts. It is her final sweep that does it,
her crosscheck of features, my face against the smaller one.

I see her check my measurements, the distance
from eyes to ears, lips to chin, the cleft I do not have.

I see her hold these facts loose as coins in her palm,
I see her put those parts of me between her teeth

and clamp down, finding nothing but a lightweight metal,
a hollow ring, a counterfeit.