I’m told birthing is like dying to self,
that it would be natural to give up the life
I thought was mine forever and ever.
This life I’ll need to surrender is theirs as
my hold is as temporary
as a speck in the arm,
a navel on a plum that bears the bite of a
bird, its nectar a salve for a wound.
From conception to death, I am
tethered to the other bodies
that are not mine. But they were my flesh and
bones—miraculous, made
fearfully, wonderfully, each one unique,
stitched cell by cell, growing four limbs like bent twigs
howling over the brush of a fallen
cedar tree, planted in wilderness,
strong bones like brass pieces blowing
fine music, melodies recorded
on papyrus. Through infancy they’re
nursed, then weaned in the shadowy valley.
Once kept between my bones,
they were knotted like bars of iron
rooted in cement, sinews
of stone tied together like braided rope.
Until my skin sags and my life ends and my
fingers lose their grip on who I
wanted to be and who I really am.

ERÉNDIRA RAMIREZ-ORTEGA's fiction have appeared in West Branch, The Puritan, Day One, The Cossack Review, The Black Warrior Review, and others. Her poetry is featured in Origins Journal, The Sunlight Press, and Mothers Always Write. Her essays are featured in The Washington Post, Brain, Child Magazine, Faithfully Magazine, The Mudroom Blog, The Tishman Review, Cordella Magazine, Front Porch Commons: A Project of the [CLMP], and many others. She is writing a novel.