The Woman Who Gave Birth to a Stone
Once there was a woman who became heavy with child, and when the time was done, she gave birth to a stone, smooth and dark and warm. The midwife gasped at the sudden weight, the unexpected density. She handed it to the woman uncertainly, almost apologetically. It is a stone, she said. You have given birth to a stone. The woman took the stone and held it against her skin, feeling its warmth, the warmth that was her own warmth, taken away and then returned.
A woman gave birth, and when the midwife pulled the caul away, the stone was dark, and wet with the fluids of birth, smooth, as though it had moved with the river for countless seasons, around every curve to finally be born here, to be held, dark and warm, against the woman’s skin. She laid the stone at her side, and sent the midwife away. She dried the stone and embraced it, feeling its weight against her, pressing its curved face with her hand. She made it the center of her heart and fell asleep curled around it in the dark.
A woman gave birth to a dark warm stone and began to settle around it in concentric rings. The stone held the warmth that was their shared warmth, held it while she curled around it in the dark. Her hair lay in damp coils around the stone, and she smiled distantly, gazing at it with heavy, dark eyes, caressing it, murmuring softly. After a time, though, the warmth began to fade, the stone began to cool, and as it cooled, her blood thickened with silt, her breasts became swollen with mud. Still, she continued to settle, and remained curled, smiling, murmuring Stone, my Stone, the center of my heart.
She settled into stillness around the stone, and clung to its warmth, to mingle it with her own. But the stone in time became cool, and when it had dried, its smooth, firm curve was hardened to her touch. And so she set the stone aside. She rose up from the bed and went about the house, passing from room to room as she had done before. She made a place for the stone, and laid it on soft cotton, wrapped in silks. When she passed through the room where the stone was kept, she would press her hand lightly against it, lean her palm briefly against its cool curve and murmur quietly. Then she would turn and pass to the next room, carrying the cool fragrance of the stone in her hand.
A woman gave birth to a stone, and when it was cool and dry she rose up again, passing from room to room as before. The place where the stone was kept was cool, and she passed into the room and into the next, carrying the cool, curved fragrance in her hands. The whole house was filled invisibly with the fragrance of the stone, and the stone was the center of the house. As the seasons turned, and turned again back on themselves, the stone settled more and more deeply into its place in the house, and the woman passed more slowly, imperceptibly more slowly with each season, pressing the stone more lightly, saving her warmth.
(One night the woman left the stone in the house and walked to the river. She gazed at the river a long time, but could see only the light on the surface of the water. She saw nothing of stones, nothing of the shore, nothing of silt or mud; only light on the surface, broken and scattered, the partial light of the partial moon. She gathered that light together and carried it away with her, carried it home in her eyes that were the color of stones.)
The house, the stone in its place, and the woman passing from room to room fell together into an arrangement, an array of shapes, a shifting chorus of respective distances that kept a certain, descending rhythm. The woman and the stone, the stone and the house, the house and the woman circled within one another, drawing away and returning, and cooling gradually, as the stone cooled. As she had surrounded the stone and warmed it while she prepared it for birth, so the woman circled the stone in its place in the house and warmed it as she could with the press of her hand, accepting in exchange the cool fragrance in her palm. The house with all its rooms intact surrounded them as it was surrounded by the turning seasons that swayed like a tree through sun and rain, that opened and shut the ice on the river like the blinking of an eye.
One certain spring, just before spring, when winter was still unlocking, the woman passed into the room with the stone. She unwrapped it from its silks and held it smooth and dark against her skin. Her breasts were no longer muddy, her blood was clear and cold and swift in her veins. Stone, she said, I have no more warmth to give you. She carried the stone out through the rooms, and placed it in a little garden among a number of other stones. For a time the stone remained outside the house, passing through snow and sun while the woman passed from room to room inside. It was a new arrangement, a new array of shapes and respective distances, that also continued with a gentle, descending rhythm. One window of the house looked out upon the garden, and the woman could be seen inside, sometimes passing, sometimes pausing to press her hand against the glass.
Once there was a woman who gave birth to a dark, wet, warm stone, who brought by the force of her body a secret thing into the world. When it was cool and dry, and when she was clear and cold, she took it from the house and placed it in a garden among the other stones. For a time she passed from room to room, as before, circling inside as the seasons circled the house, and the stone remained among the others, smooth and dark, as at the end of a long river, always the last stone to be covered by snow, always the first to shrug it off in the spring.
First published Fall of 2012 in The Bitter Oleander vol. 18 no. 2