The only beings on the street have dogs to walk
or are them. Matte black birds startle
against the snow, swallowing light & seeds.
I remember another winter, when my belly swelled
with a ghost’s inverse, the she I’d always been
haunted by: little me, not me. I might have seen
her coming, but not what changes she wrought
to my insides: my liver & kidneys tamped down,
gunpowder; my lungs accordioned; my stomach
cramped; my heart crumpled & shoved up
into my throat. It lives there still.
My body was a haunted house, some spirit
clanging away in there at night, rattling
every single pipe. It’s always night, now,
or about to be. The crows claw the grizzled sky
from its socket, moving centers of a still world.
Another owner, another dog. Another winter,
& I think—alone & oldening—why didn’t I
have a child? What pain did I imagine
greater than this?
Mairead Small Staid is the recipient of fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, the Minnesota State Arts Board, and Phillips Exeter Academy, where she was the 2017–18 George Bennett Fellow. Her work has appeared in The Believer, AGNI, The Georgia Review, Kenyon Review, Paris Review Daily, and elsewhere. She lives in Minnesota. (updated 4/2020)