byDenise Sweet

Pearl-white, we bathed you,
cocooned in soft flannel folds
and delivered you like an effigy
to the nurse, her head shook once as
she touched your chest, your starfish hands
your tiny head, elongated and wet with anguish.

The coolant in the room begins to hiss
(you would've shivered and cried for home -
there, a bassinette, gauzed in ivory lace
and a rocking chair wait, heaping with gifts,
one, a t-shirt that reads, "Spoiled Rotten" --)

But, what did it feel like, the burden
of mottled birth unto cold, wet sheets?
Ghost-like and timid, what did you feel?
The paralysis of silence, cold steel
against your spine, your body caging
tiny murmurs of warmth, a stubborn secret?

As the spasms boil with an amniotic river,
a grey-green mueconium swaddles you
your tiny neck, swollen and collared
drops the weight gladly into gloved hands
reluctance is your only grace
your birth, an empty, still relief.

Your sparrow heart collapsed in dark ponds
of blood, Lovely pearl, did you feel her
legs quiver around you, their hands struggle
to ressurect you? Did you hear the sputter
of the aspirator? Or the sharp ping of
the surgucal knife as it hit the floor?

Would you have carried us, let us reconcile
the seconds of your life into years just once?
We would press these lips against your chest
till the heart-tones leapt across the screen
like silvery sprites - instead, a harsh, blank,
lunatic silence levels the walls around us.

© 1991 Denise Sweet
First published in WI Poetry, Academy of Arts, Letters & Sciences, Madison, WI, 1991.
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