Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Oh so real

Some nine years ago I had my first baby. It was cold and snowing on the night she was born. In the midst of pure chaos and urgency, I sat propped in a bed in ICU listening to the whirs and beeps of machines that would somehow tell the night nurse whether I was living or dying. The baby, whom I begged to be brought to me, lay cradled in my left arm (the only limb without a needle stuck in it) as I dozed in and out of sleep. Her hair and her eyelashes were the color of deep night.
Three days later, when all possibility of the tragic had passed, I was bombarded with paperwork. The baby never left the crook of my arm.
The first order of business was the birth certificate. Nurses politely nudged me to fill out the "father" portion of the birth certificate. I did. They asked me when he would be in to sign the paper. I couldn't tell them, "He's somewhere in Boston," I said, looking at the baby. A few hours later, a social worker came into the room with the incomplete certificate in hand.
"We can't include the paternal information if he's not here to sign it," she said briskly.
"Then it's done," I mumbled, scratching out the information with a dying pen.
"Do you have adoptive parents for the child/" she asked, taking up a clipboard.
"What the hell are you talking about," I said, the drowsiness gone.
"I mean, are you planning on keeping the baby?"
I laughed a hard mean little laugh. "Does a bear shit in the woods?" She left then, the sound of her shoes clicking on the floor echoed through the hallway.
Some nine years ago I had my first baby. She was the most tangible and intangible thing that has ever come into my life. And still, by some strange twist of morals and mores, she is known as illegitimate, somehow on the outskirts of life. This poem is my answer to that kind of thinking.

Those black massy curls never grow down
"Gravity-defying hair" is an affectionate term
So is "coffee and cream" and "stinky pits" and "baby cakes"
Such beautiful skin on this child, and eyes and lashes,
Could make a churchwoman cry.
Folks exclaimed and proclaimed, "ah such a beautiful child"
They wanted a piece of her, smelling her curls and stroking her chubby cheek.
But still, on that half-yellowed piece of paper
(Calls itself a birth certificate)
There is no sign of life, your life
Just some dashes where "father" should be
As if somehow, the dust from it
Would cling to your dress forever.

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