Thursday, August 7, 2014

Dead Baby

By Jacqueline St. Joan

There’s a dead baby in your yard
the newsboy said when he knocked on the door.
It was over by the fence.  It was naked. It was blue.
It was bloody placenta all over the ground
and red spots on the fence.  Red spots on the fence
led them over the top to the trail of blood
in the neighbor’s yard
to the back door
and into the room
of a 13 year old, the childless mother
of the dead baby in the yard next door.
I heard a cry late last night,
a neighbor reported,
Thought it was a cat or a bird.

What did she do alone in that room?
Teddy bear stuffed in her mouth?
Her legs pumping the mantra of a child
giving birth all alone:  Get rid of it,
then wash up, no one will know
Did she rise up then
Get rid of it
and take the baby to the fence?
Go wash up, it’s gone now, no one will know
it’s over, we’re dying, wash up now,
it’s gone over the fence . . .

There’s a dead baby in your yard
the newsboy said when he knocked on the door.
It was over by the fence.
It was wrapped in slick papers
the Sunday supplement
multicolored  ink-stains
and bloody from the birth,
yellow rubber gloves flopped in a puddle,
man-sized gloves.  Playtex
what you use
to wash the whitewalls on tires
to strip furniture
to clean the oven
or to pull out a baby that doesn’t want to come
when you don’t know what you’re doing
so you reach in and pull harder
and the head comes out and it’s blue
and the cord’s wrapped around
and you don’t know what you’re doing
and you reach in and pull harder
and the yellow gloves pull harder
and you’re scared
and it’s blue and we’re dying,
so you reach for the Parade section
and roll the baby in it
and you don’t know what you’re doing
and you’re sorry
and you drop it over the fence
hand over head, like a kid mailing a letter
and you turn the gloves inside out,
drop them and run home before dark.
There’s a dead baby in your yard
the newsboy said when he knocked on the door.
It was over by the fence.
It was dressed in white lace
a christening gown
layers of white on white,
the baby had been washed,
the clothes had been pressed
it had all been prepared,
a small bonnet crocheted
a pearl ribbon woven through.
It was wrapped in a cover
a hand-knitted blanket,
the edges folded back,
the kind a grandmother would weave
the perfect baby, the kind a grandmother
would dream of
the son she’d never had,
the one she could spoil,
the one she deserved.
There’s a dead baby in your yard
the newsboy said when he knocked on the door.
It was over by the fence where the Granddaddy
leaned against it, a post to divide his property
from yours.  Don’t know nothing ’bout no fence,
the Granddaddy said.  So now she’s knocked up
and squalling out back,
serves her right for running around
serves her right for backtalking me.
The neighbor next door
was the one who was right
who heard late that night
the cat and the bird.
Take me to the fence,
the baby had begged them,
and when the newsboy arrived
he saw an alley cat out back
tugging at  some meat.  He heard
a single black bird
a cry in the wind.
He rushed to tell all of them
what all of them already knew.
There’s a dead baby in our yard
the newsboy says,
and something knocks at our door.

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