Knock Once


red canna, georgia o’keeffe, 1924

It’s 3 am and I can’t sleep. Something woke me up. Something I ate or something I thought or something I hoped when my breath was deep and my eyes were closed or something I lost as my breath became shallow and my eyes flickered. I am either peaceful or discontent or just racked with heartburn.

It can be all three.

That’s allowed.

The baby kicked and I remembered she was there, somewhere inside of me, rolling and sucking and flailing and curling and cushioned and so I am somewhere inside of me, too. If I can sustain her, I suppose I can sustain me.

Nobody tells you that gestation, 40 weeks in the wilderness, is a time of mourning as well as expectation. I am a vessel of birth and so I am a vessel of death. My death. But her death, too.

The early writers knew this. They had to love it, you always love what creates you. And they had to hate it, you always hate what destroys you. And so they kept Eve alive in parchment and scroll and on rolling tongue. But they marked her flesh with shame and her womb with weakness. You’ve brought me here, Mother and so I love you. You’ve brought me here, Mother and so I hate you.

I love her. But I cannot hate her.

I cannot hate me.

The early writers didn’t know much.

Hello, my sweet. I love you. I loved you and so I had you and I had you so I could leave you and so you could leave the ones you love, too. I do not hate you.

Do not hate, you.

Is the leave-taking a symptom of the lovemaking

Or the lovemaking a symptom of the leave-taking

A child comes and we tell her she is made for life but also for death and both are created in her image and she is beautiful.

I am beautiful.

I’ve created something beautiful.

My daughters, you are beautiful.

And there, the reason we reach for God and the heavens and the places we feel but cannot see? We reach for them because we cannot always bear the weight of our own selfless selfishness. Or our selfish selflessness. This creation of something that must be destroyed. But only after its held our hands, stood as witness, through our own destruction. If we are lucky. If they are lucky.

I have been lucky.

It doesn’t feel lucky.

I witness you. I am sometimes sorry I’ve forced you to witness me.

And still, despite my betrayal, she turns in me and my stomach moves with limbs and spirit.

Too fast that one, love? Everything alright, love? Knock once for yes. Not at all for no.

I bless her. Bless her with a power I hold and a vision beyond mine. Not to leave me but to find me. Or let me find her. When this is done. When the Will is done or at least begun. When she’s straining for the echo of my voice or I wish she was.

I bless her with the place I cannot see, the one that wakes me up and puts me back to sleep, because it’s the only blessing I can light in my dendrite hands. It burns but I strike again when it falters and hold it up higher. Follow me. Or know where I’ve gone.

This fire is not mine and so I cannot pour it into your hands. See how it sticks. The places it has gone into my flesh? How I begin to glow like wood that breaks into ash? Crack your hands together until they spark and sputter and flame into blues and oranges and yellows and the stars like they are, not like we’ve drawn them. Can you do it, girl? I know it hurts.

No? Not yet, maybe tomorrow.

Here, I can hold the warmth to your face, our face, and keep the smoke from your eyes.

Don’t cry.

Somewhere something whispers.

Your life is small and you do not understand. I’ve created your life and I’ve created your death. But I’ve also created the Life that gave you life and I’ve created the Death that will give you death.

And from life comes death and from death comes Death and from Death comes Life and Life once born will not die.

And I roll and suck and flail and kick and curl and am cushioned because I hear the voice of My Mother and if she can sustain my life, I suppose she can sustain Her Life.

Can you hear me?

I knock once for yes.

Because I am in Her and She is in me.

And my life and death bear witness of her Life and Death.

She sets herself alight, and when she goes where I cannot follow, I am left with a blazing negative of her image in a dark space.

I strike my hands together once more.

I love the daughter of the mother. I love the daughter of the Mother.

I love the Mother of the Daughter.


  1. This is stunning. Thank you! I’m so glad to have your voice in this space.

  2. megelaineconley says:

    Jason, that is a very, very kind thing to say. Thank you.

  3. EnglishTeacher says:

    What a pleasure to read this evening! When/if I ever conceive, I hope I can write about it in such a lovely way as this.

  4. Oh! Thank you.

  5. Kevin Barney says:

    Beautiful, thank you.

  6. I can’t marshall my words that are churning in response to this, but as I’m going about my banal chores this evening, I am conscious of the dendrites in my hands, and the fact or belief that they are connected to something good. It’s nice, thanks.

  7. megelaineconley says:

    Everyone. Truly. Thank you so, so much for your kind words. Really more than I deserve.

  8. Wow, I’m going to need to read this several times to absorb all of its beauty and wisdom. Thank you!

  9. My daughter gave birth to my fifth grandchild last night. A perfect, perfectly beautiful little girl. Your piece is divine in the most sanctifying sense of the word. Thank You.

  10. This is beautiful!

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