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'The Cistern' and 'Your Birth': Two poems by Nicole Brooks

The Cistern
by Nicole Brooks

I couldn’t keep myself from every so often
getting on my knees, lugging aside the steel cover
and staring down into the cistern. It was lined with
bricks and smelled of musty old water. One day I
looked too long and fell in. When I had been down
there a few days a man walking by heard me wailing.
I asked him to send my baby down. “How about some
water?” he said. “That works, too,” I said. “Where
is the baby?” he said. “Somewhere in the house,” I said.
He sent down a bucket of water and another bucket
with the baby. I remembered then the daydream I
used to have about placing the baby at the bottom
of the cistern. The thought had always scared me
but I recognized it for what it was, a reckoning
of all the things I could or could not do to the tiny baby.
I should bring you and her up,” the man said.
You and what army,” I said. “I will get help,” he said.
Back in the house the baby ate while I ate and then we
dozed. “Are you going to keep holding me?” the baby
asked with her milk-rimmed mouth. “That’s my plan,”
I said. “Sometime I’ll need to roll over,” she said.

Your Birth
         For Eleanor
by Nicole Brooks

Your birth was nothing like they told me it would be like
No sitcom screaming at dad no deals with god

Not like a watermelon squeezed out an opening the size of a lemon
Not you did this to me damn you not give me the drugs give me the goddamn drugs

Your birth was like coming home after a long hard day bent over in a field
Like lying back in a swimming pool at night letting myself

sink as married couples make love in bedrooms nearby so tired
the nurses had to wake me each time it was time to push you out

I grunted once because I thought I was supposed to your birth
was feeling through the numbness your delicate driving skull break through into air

You did not cry and all I could say was hello and hello again and again
Lying on me your first decision out in the world was to turn that new face
to find my eyes it was like you said well there you are
as if you had been waiting for me as I have waited for you

Nicole Brooks lives in her hometown of Lafayette with her husband and daughter. She works at Purdue University and teaches dance at Lafayette Ballet School. She holds degrees from Purdue and Butler University. She earned a master's in journalism from IU in Bloomington, and worked in newspapers and radio in Indiana and Illinois. She is in Butler's MFA program, concentrating on poetry.