The Birth of Bad Jamie
Jessica Fordham Kidd
  When she was only two
  Bad Jamie’s mother wandered into the chestnut trees
  past the blackberry briars and forgotten apples trees
  and made it all the way to the creek.

  A pair of minks watched her from beneath
  the roots of a holly bush barely clinging to the bank.
  A trio of beavers slapped the water in warning,
  but Bad Jamie’s mother only laughed
  and grabbed up a fistful of sand and mud.

  She took off one patent leather shoe
  and gave it to the minnows
  who ferried it downstream for safekeeping.

  Meanwhile her mother sensed a quiet
  and let the potatoes fry to black
  while she ran zig-zagged to find her roving girl.

  Bad Jamie’s mother was gray around the mouth
  where she had eaten clay, and she didn’t know the word
  for minks even if she had seen them in their hiding place.

  For the rest of the day, she played with clothespeg children,
  and her mother put the remaining shoe high on a shelf
  just in case the other ever turned up.

  When she was nineteen
  Bad Jamie’s mother lay down in the creekbed
  to feel pointed stones dig into her back.
  That sharp pain was much preferred to the waves
  that were pushing Clarence out of her body.

  When she was almost twenty-one,
  Bad Jamie’s mother faced upstream
  and knelt in the deepest part of the creek.
  She let the creekwater flow straight into her belly,
  and the doctor got drunk later and swore that when Bad Jamie was born,
  a minnow was flopping on the floor
  where her copious water broke.


  When Bad Jamie nursed, the corners of his mouth
  sparkled with the mica of creek mud.
  His mother wiped the grains from those divots
  between fat cheek and rose lip

  and never pondered why her baby was taking soil
  along with milk from her breasts.

  In a way she knew without knowing
  that the dirt was from her

  and that milk and the mountain spurted from her,
  not in equal amounts but enough for its purposes.

  That young girl didn’t question her body that way,
  didn’t question the howls from her pinked and wrinkled

  baby. Just fed and wiped. Fed and wiped and jostled him to sleep
  while a wild dog howled into the blowing chestnut trees.

Jessica Fordham Kidd is a lifelong Alabamian. She is the associate director of first-year writing at the University of Alabama, and her poems have appeared in Drunken Boat, Goblin Fruit, and The Paris Review among others. 

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