Brittany Micka-Foos

Our Lady of Sorrows

The Virgin Mary cradles her miracle
in the courtyard of the Holy Cross.
Automatic doors part for us
and I confess: I’m not even Catholic:
I’m an atheist.

It’s a good hospital, you say as we pass
through the doors, past the chapel, dimmed
lights and hard pews—a place to pray
for the sick or dying,
not for me.

I shepherd myself into maternity. I am overdue
and heavy but I carry my own cross. My back bends
under the weight of what I don’t know
of death, with its magnesium kiss,
of doctors I don’t trust, of disorders
and divine intervention .

Before dawn,
drugs were administered
three times: Denial, denial,
and Pitocin drip. Propped on all fours, a feral offering
as nurses, enraptured, wail: the heartbeat, the heartbeat
a frantic, frenzied choir.

I repent
my carefully laid plans, these petty hopes. I curse
my body and its failed machinery.
I shake and see double as they slit my stomach
shiver against pristine metal, against
the hard torso of my fear.

At my left shoulder, you say, stay with me. On my right,
the anesthesiologist prophesizes referred pain.The baby
slithers out, uncoiling.
I don’t see her. She is taken. I hear
doctors counting their bright instruments
so nothing is left inside.

At daybreak the chaplain
makes her rounds. Beside the empty
bassinet, sunlit dust haloes her half-bowed head.
Where do you find strength?
The heretic in me resists: What choice
did I have?

I want her to pray with me.
I want to raise my hands in praise
of a god of creation and compassion,
fear and meaning.
I want to lie prostrate
in this dim space between
surgery and salvation. To speak
in tongues, hollow out my body to become
whole, somehow, immaculate.

Please God,
Let me hold my baby—

Give me faith. May the dust settle on my tongue
like penance. May I swell and sing
through mouthfuls of ash.

Brittany Micka-Foos is a writer living in the Pacific Northwest. Her short stories, essays, and poetry have been published in Witness, Hobart, Literary Mama, Briar Cliff Review, and elsewhere. Read more of her work at