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.