-after the photo [The Hager family standing before their log
        cabin in Oregon Territory],
Women's Diaries of the Westward
        Journey, ed. Lillian Schlissel.


I want you to know       the woman on the right       could be

       my mother       though my mother was not in the same way

              a homesteader       and she was not       quite

       as beautiful       (up-swoop of dark hair       fine-boned features)

but she did share       I believe       a secret:

              blood slicked down the thighs       a newborn

       oblivious to the bleeding       bundled in a wooden half crate

and she did share       the woman's cast-off gaze

       while her in-laws and husband       grinned into the lens

and maybe she shared       a body locked in pain:

              the tailbone crushed       when the lower belly swelled

       the desire for the femur       to unhinge the hips

and I wonder, now, how       the back muscles succumbed

       and gave up                    all that terrible weight

and whether her body ever knew pleasure              the lover's lips

       in just the right spot              just the right pressure

the winds howling through the thick chinked logs             

                                   the candlelight aflicker

       the honeyed words       and whispered lies:        Relax

No one's looking                     Breathe into it.