Poetry, Poetry Archive

Keep | Teri Ellen Cross Davis

Photo by Laureen Missaire on Unsplash
When it finally happened,
when the girl broke free,
pushed out, doctor
elbow deep in me,
massaging a weeping
uterus—it would be weeks
later between diaper changes,
a hardened umbilicus fell.

Listless from lack of sleep
I missed its leap, sixty
centimeters of legacy
cut to a stump,
this physical keep—
my body’s ancestral store,
snipped, shuttered, lost.

By the second child, a boy,
I knew. He would be the last.
So I kept a bloodshot eye
on the striated yellow
hardening knot,
this sieve, this tether,
triad of blood vessels.
How crucial this lifeline
from fetus to placenta to me,
how essential I was
each breath, each bite,
until I was not.


Teri Ellen Cross Davis is the author of Haint, (Gival Press) winner of the 2017 Ohioana Book Award for Poetry.  She is a Cave Canem fellow and has received fellowships to attend the Virginia Center for Creative Arts, the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, and Hedgebrook. She is a member of the Black Ladies Brunch Collective. Her work has been published in many anthologies including: Bum Rush The Page: A Def Poetry JamGathering Ground: A Reader Celebrating Cave Canem’s First DecadeFull Moon on K Street: Poems About Washington, DCThe Golden Shovel Anthology: New Poems Honoring Gwendolyn BrooksNot Without Our Laughter: poems of joy, humor, and sexuality and The BreakBeat Poets Vol. 2: Black Girl Magic. Her work can be read online and in journals including: Beltway Poetry QuarterlyDelaware Poetry ReviewGargoyleHarvard ReviewKestrel,Little Patuxent ReviewNatural BridgeNorth American ReviewMER VOXPoetry Ireland ReviewPoet Lore, and Tin House. She lives in Maryland with her husband, poet Hayes Davis and their two children.

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