hardens I press with horrible joy down
my back cracks like a wrist
shame I am voiding oh behind it is too late
hide me forever I work thrust I must free
now I all muscles & bones concentrate
what is living from dying?
—from John Berryman’s “Homage to Mistress Bradstreet”
This sentence is part of a longer passage that I quote in the epigraph to my unpublished novel, Nine Months, because I think it so wonderfully captures the intensity, beauty, rhythm and horror that is the miracle called childbirth.