Before my hips shift and shoulder cuts through the humid air I take one more look at him; swollen eyes falling on rolls of oiled, doughy flesh.
Creases of arm and taught warm belly lay grotesque in the sun, fattened by warmth and by womb.
No bigger than a breadbox, no figment of a dream, he lays swirled in leaves and needles and light beams.
Fragile, and hardy, and tarnished; made in the Image, indeed.
My eyes widen,
A shadow rises like water in the wind and the ghost of a bird settles into a landing on his shoulder.
The tiny dark head fuzz with kisses next to the old, stiff bird is too much for me. The trees stand stoic and my knees sway.
The ghost of the bird stays silent, ready.
My baby lays still with disease-ridden skin and feverish eyes. He will not last the night.
But nor would I if I held him tight. Villages are razed by one, birthright damned, and to the soil returned.
It was a horrific fight. My knees give way to the right, and in the desperate gait of women trained never to run I weave through the trees.
The forest spits me out, and shame consumes me.
The boys are still waiting. They bring me back to the square and lift my palms in the air.
I am hailed a savior, a matron, a bringer of peace. I sank to the ground and still they hold me, like meat.