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Jessica Anne Cuello

Midwife's Apprentice

Soon she would have learned
to strip the membrane
near the womb.
One finger to set
the labor on.

Then she would have learned
to turn the baby
in the mother's water.
A sailing planet in her hands.

Panic: Witch Trials, 1580

She was blond and blue.
The girl couldn't swim and we pulled her out—
leaches puckered her skin. Water burns black.
Ripples like fabric
efface the wooden edges of stakes

until everything is round
even the bed where I dream of a sea monster,
his body half-submerged.

Where will you go?
He asks with one side eye
like I am on a dry path and he is a man.

Evidence Before the Court: 1580

An aiguillette I never
never threaded

a loop
to take away a man
I never never

an apple in my
bucket smelling
of the devil

Lack of Tears Means Guilt

—I can't summon
salt or water,
I listen with my face
averted—hands on belly—
use my eye for color:
pink or white
to know how far the body's come.

The valves are shut.
Wrist man, beak and teeth.
No body left
to wreak upon.
Sand inside my ducts
of love.

Once I went into a well—


His brackish voice bangs
like the stick he beat me with.

No men have lived with me since.
I whisper it.

Two deaths: a man and boy.

I dried into a leaf.

In hell, those who bring on
baby deaths.

In hell, there's always a man next to you,
 face after talking face.

In hell, they dance, says the judge.

The unborn are wrapped
 but not in arms.

The unborn absorbed
 into the blood.

Witch. Poisoner.

Mouthpiece. Know-nothing.

What life have you ever saved?

➥ Bio