The older women wise and tell Anna
first time baby mother,
“hold a stone upon your head and follow
a straight line go home.”
For like how Anna was working in the
right up till the appointed hour
when her clear heraldic water
broke free and washed her down.
Dry birth for you young mother,
the distance between field and home
come in like the Gobi desert now.
But your first baby must born abed.
Put the woman stone on your head
and walk through no man’s land
go home. When you walk, the stone
and not you yet, will bear down.
Former poet laureate of Jamaica, and recipient of the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry in 2019, Lorna Goodison is the celebrated author of many volumes of poetry, the most recent of which is Mother Muse, three short story collections, and two books of personal essays.
“Birth Stone” was originally published in The Hudson Review (43.4) and then republished in The Literary Review: Women Poets of the Caribbean, Summer 1992 (Vol. 35 No. 4). It is retrieved here as part of our Vigil for Mother’s Day 2022.