Now, you’re supposed to feel baby legs feather kicking the walls
of your soft uterus, arms reaching wide to measure the space of this small,
shadowed cloister, where your blood’s thick, heavy pumping is the sound
of your church’s bells in evening. If you can’t feel these light stirrings, try harder.
Divine them with fingertips. Trace your linea nigra, black arc to pubic bone. Discern
fluttering. When you’re an old woman and your belly is large and empty, you’ll
reach down under the pelvic bone and cradle it. You’ll remember what the delivery-
room doctor warned: You’ll die, if you carry another baby. And so, and so,
you’ll say, I birthed my only daughter close on forty. After the baby, your hands
between your legs, red skin like a turkey’s gobble poking from pink folds, your
fingers pushing it back, pushing back over and over against the body’s insistence
you’d been broken out of. You trying to forget, reciting the names of your butterflies:
Brimstone, Cabbage White, Clouded Sulphur, Rita Blue, Julia, Aphrodite Fritillary,
that Dingy Purplewing. Your bloody broken-out-of-ness, held at bay by order—so,
the importance of your rituals: knocking on wood, throwing salt over your shoulder,
carrying your husband two poached eggs and hot water over tea leaves in the same
chipped, luminous porcelain cup every morning. Now, you’re back in front of the mirror,
you’re waiting for flight in the womb, a stirring, a soft reverberation. You believe
in virtue, yes, in fate, in an eye for an eye: Malicious Skipper, Saltbush Sootywing,
Long Dash, Southern Broken-Dash—that other baby. Some female moths have no wings,
so they crawl all their lives on their bellies. I still, you think, sleep with one red eye open.
Nicole Rollender has won the 2012 Princemere Poetry Prize for her poem "Quickening." The prize comes with a $300 award.
Runners-up are Michael Hogan (Guadalajara, Mexico ) for “Good Friday in Providencia” and David Sloan (Brunswick, Maine) for “The Way He Plays.”
Finalists are Meg Eden (Gambrills, Maryland) and Francine Witte (New York, New York).
We are grateful to all who submitted.