Archives for posts with tag: babies

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First Birth (after Sharon Olds)
by Kelley White

They taught us little, and what they taught us
I had not learned, so I just took it as it came:
slippery, the naked body blue-grey, greased,
slipping as I turned it in my hands, blood
rushing dark and clotting at my feet, the twisted rope
unearthly white and pulsing under that too-bright
glare, little lips pinking and the small mouth
opening to a cry, arms flailing, fingers spread
chest flaring at my wet gloved touch scrotum
shrunken knees flexed the nurse reaching
to stamp the sole blue as his mother’s thumb,
I sucking and squirting with the basting bulb
my mask wet, then the dry hot lamp the wrapping
the wet gloves and blood-soaked gown pulled
from my body, my face free, hands bare
to hold that too sweet pinked-up bundle
beside the mother’s swamped face:
I signed on for the duration.

Previously published in Lips 2005 and Referential 2014

 Photo by Patricia Prudente on Unsplash

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem is about one of the often joyful places where medical people wear masks, Labor & Delivery. (Odd, the first face a newborn sees may very well be wearing a mask.) I was named “Coronavirus Crisis Coordinator” at the small health center in inner-city Philadelphia, where I have worked for several decades. On inventory, May 1, we have 26 isolation gowns, 8 regular surgical masks, and 10 N95 masks (construction grade, not medical grade: I traded toilet paper for them with the construction workers replacing the sewer and water lines in my street when they had to stop work in mid-March as non-essential; they left a gaping crater behind). Many of our supplies (gloves, masks, thermometers) have been stolen. I am angry when I see people out and about with medical-grade masks on (though grateful they are wearing masks). I’ve made more than 100 cloth masks on a toy Hello Kitty sewing machine out of scraps left over from craft projects. I’ve run out of cloth. And thermometers.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Pediatrician Kelley White has worked in inner city Philadelphia and rural New Hampshire. Her poems have appeared in Exquisite Corpse, Rattle and JAMA. Her recent books are Toxic Environment (Boston Poet Press) and Two Birds in Flame (Beech River Books.) She received a 2008 Pennsylvania Council on the Arts grant.

CAPTION: And no one ever heard from the Anderson brothers again.

Credit: The Far Side cartoon by Gary Larson, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED