Cast Your Cares Upon Him

by Kathryn Smith
A 25-year-old woman told a witness Saturday she threw her 15-month-old son down 50 feet of a river embankment because the devil told her to do it, according to court documents.
                  -The Spokesman-Review
Are we fish or birds? If we are born
gilled, then surely a winged rebirth awaits us,

no longer earthbound, our animal
slits sealed over, sealing out
knowledge of what
came before. The people who grew from fish

do not remember life in water, the memory
of it shed with that life’s scales. So hail
mammalian, for we are people now,
upright, prisoners to our limbs. Who can blame,

then, the young mother who tossed her child
down the embankment so he would know this world

is pain and pain again, is grit and scab. Is
gristle. Is obeying another’s voice. Is being forced
to throw what we love most to the river and watching him
hit rock. No wings, no fins. Only dust.
She wanted him to remember

what it’s like to breathe
inside something else, that world-before-the-
world of the womb. That space where
being trapped is the only way we stay alive.

KATHRYN SMITH has recent work published or forthcoming in Mid-American Review, Florida Review, Bluestem, Cleaver Magazine and Ruminate. She was a 2013 artist resident at Holden Village, and her work has been a finalist for the Janet B. McCabe Poetry Prize and the Michael Waters Poetry Prize. She has an MFA in creative writing from Eastern Washington University and lives in Spokane, Washington.