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April 2013, vol 9, no 1

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Denise Bennett

Bastardy Order

summer shower
wet city pavements –
smell of rain

I carry my baby close to my chest. Adoption is the best policy. Give her up. Let her go. You'll feel better for it. How can a war widow with no means keep a child? It's a wild idea. The words whirl in my head. It's not my fault he left. They have made me come here today to the courtroom in my shame, to name the man who will not pay. I have no money. I have no choice. The magistrate gives me a look as if I'm something he wants to wipe from his shoe; uses words I can't understand – complainant, defendant, calls my baby a bastard. Could he not say, mother, father, daughter? Suddenly it's all done. A clerk roughly pushes a piece of grey paper into my hands which will mark my child for life. An award of seventeen shillings a week, if she lives. I vow to lock this document in a box, bury these words. Clutching my child, I step into the sunshine.

on the bomb-site
a buddleia bush –
thick with butterflies