Childbirth 1955 by André Masson 1896-1987
by Katie Manning

My veins roll away.
The back of my hand swells
black with blood.

The soles of my feet
hold each other.
I am waiting on a cliff
over the ocean.
Breathe. Breathe.
I taste the salt.

The me in the room
is not me.

I blow out candles,
blow the candles, blow.
No, I am just a child,
a big breath
before a bright red
birthday cake—
I can’t let go

The next one is the
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
The head in the mirror is not mine
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Someone has set me on fire
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

I’m inside out.

Open my eyes. Wet red life
wriggles on my belly. Mouth open,
eyes closed. It must be crying,
but I only hear my own voice,
Oh my. Oh my.

My husband avoids
sharp objects near soft skin.
The baby is weighed, measured, inked,
placed in a glass bowl.

Sewn back together with blood and twine,
I become
something new.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem is the love child of Mina Loy and Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who make me observe the world in slow motion and in painfully beautiful detail. I adore Ferlinghetti’s work, and I once got to chat with him after a reading about how much we love San Francisco.

IMAGE: “Childbirth” by André Masson (1955).


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Katie Manning collects books, tea, and board games. She is the author of three poetry collections: The Gospel of the Bleeding Woman (Wipf & Stock, 2013), Tea with Ezra (Boneset Books, 2013), and I Awake in My Womb (Yellow Flag Press, 2013). Her work has also appeared in several anthologies and journals, including Fairy Tale Review, New Letters, and Poet Lore. She lives in California and teaches poetry at Azusa Pacific University. Find her online at