Mary’s Baby

At Sunday Service when Pastor said,
“And Mary could find no room in the Inn
to rock her baby to sleep,” I wasn’t thinking
about that Mary; I was thinking about
Mad Mary, whose baby needed no
rocking because it was born asleep.And when he said, “So she laid him in a
manger,” I thought about Papa’s tool shed
behind the kitchen, where Mary had wandered
to in the deep black of night, her belly big
to bursting, like an overripe calabash,
and how as the rain pelted and the sky’s bowels rumbled

she leaned rigid against the zinc shutters,
her skirt pulled up to her waist, her legs wide apart,
the juice from her overripe calabash streaming from her
crotch, and how as the white tongues of lightning
broke their curse the calabash broke open and gushed,
and she had screamed, arched her back in pain, and tore

off her panties, repeating the 23rd Psalm so rapidly
that even as I watched her through slats of zinc
I could see her blood boiling hot beneath her skin,
her voice evaporating, the fumes escaping through
her pores, dancing before her eyes, and going up
as sweet incense to Jehovah. And when the baby

finally came its skin was the purplish black of the
poisoned calabash. But Mary had hugged and kissed it.
And it didn’t cry. And I remembered when Pastor
said, “And the Innkeeper said there was no room,”
and I wondered if Mary had come here to have her baby
because Brother Desmond and everyone else had told her


the same thing, and I thought about all the people of
Bellgate who shooed her from their doorsteps like
a stray dog, the school boys who felt her up behind walls,
then stoned her, Brother Desmond who tied her to the
breadfruit tree then beat her with rope soaked in urine so
she wouldn’t leave the yard. And Pastor had said that

The Virgin’s baby was born of Immaculate Conception,
since she carried the seed of Jehovah, her Father in heaven.
So after service that day I remember I had asked him
if Mad Mary’s baby was born of Immaculate Conception,
too, since everybody in Bellgate said she carried the seed
of her father, Brother Desmond, a deacon in church. But Pastor

had grown stern and rebuked me, a mild rebuke, and said
that business was for grownups, not children. And I
remember his eyes had looked far away and his face became
stone—his prayer face, and he said: “Is God will why dat
child die, you hear.” And I was satisfied, because I remembered
Aunt Pearl saying Brother Desmond had said the same thing.

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