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>The Advocate

By Sherry Robbins

There are things, mostly blood-

related, we never tell the men.

Some things can't be fit

to words unless people

have sailed the same ocean,

done the same butchery,

hunted the over-sized beast

with the same mix

of lust and dread.

Waiting in the kitchen

for a phone call

about the birth

of a first grandchild,

women pass the time

with labor stories,

the ones never told

after Thanksgiving dinner

when old battleship

or gridiron or board-

room warriors spin hero

cycles their families

know by heart.

Yet, each of us has her story,

lost babies, murdered possibilities,

miraculous births. None of us

screamed in labor

the way women do in movies,

though each of us passed through

a kind of death

before the child presented.

None of us was thanked

for giving birth. As in

the movies, it was

the doctor who was

pounded on the back.

I can almost see

some of you roll your eyes,

shift in your seats,

as these oldest,

loneliest, most important

acts of heroism

pass unmarked.

Ah, the world!

Oh, the world!

But, in the kitchen,

the women of all ages

and experience know

the mother

waiting by the phone

for the daughter giving birth

in another city.

We know

The repetition of birth

forward and backward in time,

the bloody heroics.

We know almost everything

worth knowing,

for the womb

is our Yale College and our Harvard.

SHERRY ROBBINS is a poet and teaching artist.This poem is from "or, The Whale" (BlazeVox Books, 2010), a feminist perspective on Melville's "Moby Dick."