I teach special education and English at Joel Barlow High School. I've had poems appear in 2River Review, The Naugatuck River Review, Southern Poetry Review and elsewhere. More poems at http://www.jackpowers13.com/poetry.
I step into our tiny bathroom and stare at the open toilet. Swirls of red marbleize the clear water. It might be the flush of heavy period, but I know in that dark red clump in the bottom of the bowl is a little body. Container I say to myself, slog down the stairs, through the dining room, a deep sea diver though the foreign world we now inhabit, open the cupboard next to the stove. Out tumble Tupperware with blue lids, old potato salad containers. Which could hold our baby, still, unborn? The doctor’d said, Bring in the fetus. We’ll take a look. Three days of waiting. This morning Anne gasped and rushed to the bathroom; I listened to the splash and knew. I choose the biggest, best Tupperware, pull a ladle out of the drawer, climb back up the stairs, glance toward Anne face-down on the bed, walk into the bathroom and kneel beside the toilet. Fishing into the bowl, I scoop up a clump of matted blood and peer at it for some vague human shape. I’m bleeding, Anne said Saturday, I think it’s dead. Holding the milky container up to the window’s gray November light, I search the ragged clump with the spoon for a ten-week-old embryo, for beginnings of fingers, toes, a tiny skull. Against the white porcelain, the red water disperses into opaque clouds. It must still be down there. I kneel again, dip the ladle deep into the water and feel myself rise up twenty feet above the room, able to look down on my still kneeling self, the faded linoleum floor, the back of my brown curly head peering down into the bowl, feeling for a tiny child not-to-be and finding it with a mixture of satisfaction and disgust. Watching both from above and through my body-eyes, I see the ladle in my hand rise slowly from the murk, the water drain off stringy clots of blood, revealing a not-yet being with thin veiny arms and legs and head, with eye lids sealed shut and my ceiling-self flies back to my kneeling-self, joining in awe and grief, wondering how it ever works, and why it sometimes doesn’t, how fingers know when to grow, tiny lungs know when to open, how neurons know to reach out and grab each other, knowing I can’t explain it to Anne or anyone and wondering if we’ll ever have the nerve to try again.
Author's Note: We had the nerve to try again and child number three just turned 21. Yay! My wife Anne and I live vicariously through our children from our home in Fairfield, Connecticut.
©2017 Jack Powers
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