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The Birthing Suite

Christell Victoria Roach

Claudia D'Auria, Aecor Surgens.
Parsley was chewed to an accent when the bleeding started. If you are truly Caribbean, then you know this: we learned to swim through blood as preparation for summers. A woman is with child when her legs shoot through a dock and pearls of wine drip from her calves – if the catfish gather beneath her, it’s a girl. Understand this: to wait in a birthing suite for a child is to amputate a limb each month and replace it with sand. In a Sentimental Mood began to pull at the mango in the sky, and all I heard was static falling out my chest. I plunged my hands into the toilet bowl in search of my baby. I did this several times.

A woman traveled down to the Keys to see her man, breasts colliding thumping like a crate of avocadoes; stomach plump with gears, hair in a twist-out hours before shifting to an afro. He drove down I-95 to see his woman. We were at that point where intimacy was in longing for one another. I showed my face in the shadow of the sun. We joked his fruit salad was practice for an emergency c-section. The wind snapped a palm tree in disapproval. It was hurricane season, and the storm was in my belly. We’d yet to come up with a name. Other than that, his gaze was a second skin worn in the season of the day. He picked me up and licked my collar. My breasts were mango halves as he sprinkled sugar over the bones we planted months ago.

Elbows, searchlights making hands glow like molasses in water. He went to the market to get his wife some nabs and cane sugar. This was a weekend without the kids. He came to the hostel twice before he arrived, used a vinyl to crack the door open like a walnut. Before he saw the face of static and blood, his hands were in the bowl, too. For a minute we looked like the women who washed everything at the river. Forearms – beating sticks against the washboard brim. Hands diving and coming up clean.

Blood pouring from eyes.

we really lost the baby.

She nowhere in touch.

Somewhere in a childhood August, grape juice is in a glass tumbler. Hands that could barely fist an apple practice their signature. This moment is playing on repeat when I jokingly tell him to see if he can touch the baby. His hands squeeze down each arm, along the waist, and hold my thighs as if inspecting fruit. The Haitian woman at the market taught him how to touch avocadoes, and he has been doing this ever since. Aside this moment everything was summer. A child pressed a conch shell to his face and claimed to be drowning. Everyone was ninety degrees of naked. Black people wore colors that spelled their island. A girl was picking seaweed from her hair and her lover was rinsing her feet. Island boys at the corner were hustling colored sand.

Sand in our food. beach

in our pants. Sand in the sho-

wer drain, blood there too.

Shells. Or possibly, pieces of sky hardened as the days passed – calcified. Fallen angels. Pieces of God we cannot gather enough of to feel holy. Clothes strewn up the boardwalk like a path for the horizon to follow. Watermelon knife dillydallying on a wooden cutting board. My heels are at the water’s edge, and for a minute the spine is an open door. How granular. When he came, I felt that at any moment he would step into me, a wetsuit. He pressed his hands against my shoulder blades and began gesturing. His breath a spindle. His eyes burned glass out of everything they touched. I let him grow me wings. As he did this, I snuck small shells into my mouth and began to chew. At some point, surely they would press through my back, break through the skin, and produce a wing of glass and calcium. I’m going down south where the palm trees shake at night. He traced my body fully before turning me to face him. His face a midnight of waves, his eyes, beady black moons. I found me a woman and she loves me oh so right. His lips weave into bass strings, and he coils toward me. There are snakes in the mangroves all around us. There are bodies scraping shells against glass. Nothing clangs except the hour.

When we rose there were shells all around us. The light was a shell against my eyes, and the doctors wore the conch’s exoskeleton trying to be approachable. Their fingers were glass inside me. Surely they were cutting the baby. There was so much wind in the body they escaped the lungs. The baby was a conch shell banging against everything. All around me there was an ocean crashing against the monitors, waves of blood were surely flooding the room. He held my hand like a riptide, and I swam to him sideways. His face a barnacle. My hands scraped against it with blood. God was taking back my wings, pulling them from between my legs. Everything was collapsing into rising tides. By the door, a woman wore shrubs of berries. Her face was a prayer. I watched it crumble to a different dialect, before stilling.
Everything swollen.

Each breath replaced by water

We lay like debris.

The hospital bed: life raft for the unforeseen storm. She came out of the blue.

Christell Victoria Roach is a writer born and raised in Miami, Florida and is currently a student at Emory University. A 2015 YoungArts Winner in Poetry, Christell has traveled the country performing spoken word with Tigertail WordSpeak and YouthSpeaks’ Brave New Voices, has received awards in Carnegie Hall, and recently performed poetry in the Kennedy Center.

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