Child from the Cloth Womb, by Gregory Stapp

          —on 18th century obstetric models of womb and fetus

you were made to be born
a bolt of cloth
stitched into shape by needle and thread
by the hand and lap of two virgin mothers
in canvas by your muslin skin pulled taut
and tucked into corners sewn into pose
positioned to emerge
from the four-petaled linen pudenda

tethered by tendril of silken rope
to the dyed ball of placental twine
you were pressed head down outward
into the silence your inked mouth
drawn expressionless
decried in the hushed voice of brushed cloth

midwives and practitioners returned you again
through the open abdomen of your bodiless mother
sometimes in breech or footling or transverse
presentations compelling your continuous push
into manipulated birth
until your sides wore thin as a fontanelle
you were made to unravel
a cord of knots


Gregory Stapp is a librarian living in central Oklahoma. His poems have appeared in the journals The Ekphrastic Review, The Cortland Review, and The Southern Review, among others, as well as in the anthologies Gutters & Alleyways (Lucid Moose Lit, 2014) and Level Land (Lamar University Press, 2022).