Half a Baby, a poem

by janeeatonhamilton

Love will Burst

From Love Will Burst into a Thousand Shapes

Half A Baby

 

I’d been there

to photograph the woman’s belly, that tiny unyeasted loaf

that Lilliputian bump, that craving convexity that yearned towards

life but could not manage

and the baby’s father, who tucked his hand atop

the still-beating second heart of his wife

this firstborn son to this couple

who had believed they were charmed

 

I was also there when the night turned soft

a hush, only the three of us at 4 a.m., and something

tangible in the air, brushing our skins

tender as feathers whispering our arms, our necks

 

Just—don’t

Don’t tell me how macabre

it was with my camera, its heavy clacking

We were there, three of us, then four

five briefly, then four, then three

and the night was more astonishing than

the love I feel for my daughters

the night was more blistering than divorce

and we loved each other

 

He was only 20 weeks, halfway to whole, half a baby

half a son, half way, pushing down and out

and when his miniature head finally crowned

showing a black whorl of hair

time shuddered a little before dripping off the clock

The child slid through his mother’s labouring cervix

no bigger than dust

He sank through her vagina gasping towards air

and parentage, slipping through the hot bleed

A nurse caught him, small in her palm

wrapped him in a green receiving blanket

his lips as round as a cherry as he started to breathe

and breathed

 

she passed him to his mother’s breasts and left us

his blue birth eyes jittered and opened

the lashes wet-clumped and his mother said

He has your ears

and her husband said He has your lips

he was covered in a web of blue veins

extra skin he never filled, protuberant bones

a dangling cord, vernix, merconium

 

It felt like silver rain

The parents named him Christopher Jerome, speaking his name

He convulsed, shivered his undersized death rattle, and stopped

And stopped

 

I talked to him, to them

There we are, there we go, brave boy

sweet boy, and in this rare and grieving moment

I tried to speak his silence

I’m just going to lift, I told him, and

photographed his hand, the size of a quarter, as if clasping

first his mother’s, then his father’s

Now, ChristopherJerome, I said, I said again, there now

His mother touched her sore hurting lips to his forehead

 

Don’t—

Don’t speak to me

Just don’t