One Second Before Waking

written by Peter Howard, first published in 'Bits of Me' Bedford Writers Anthology 1995

Why do I stoop? It is the pain I bear:
A sack of useless pebbles on my back,
I've carried for so long I can't recall
How once it felt to be without them, though
I know each one, its weight, its hateful shape.
Oh yes, there was a time when I was light;
My pain is not the sort that comes from birth.
It started when I gave birth - not the act,
The knowledge. Something sprang from me complete
While I was yet half-formed. That dark stone there,
That's it, the first. You would have thought the years
Would wear it smooth, but it's still sharp as when
I picked it up. The rest I found, or came,
Sent by someone, somewhere. Out of control.