You can imagine how ordinary this story is:
I had a baby. He died.
Decades have passed away since and look at me:
I am strong, solid. I step right
into the center of things.
But back then I could hardly recognize my own body
as a woman's when the child bloomed and moved
inside me. There were turnings and tremors
and rigorous shoves. Lunges. I could feel
the ball of my belly and say
This is the head, here is the foot!
Even though I talked to the walls and cried half the night,
I felt excitement, a real connection.
Everything else in my life was undone by this illicit gift.

And then my body clamped down on him,
pushed and cramped and forced him out too soon.
It was not my fault, the nurses said, I was too young,
he was too small. I felt amazed he came here at all,
came through and out of me long enough to let out one cry,
then smaller and smaller gasps. Then silence.
They wrapped him and took him away. Hands
were everywhere, swabbing up the mess, pressing my pulse,
patting me on the shoulder.

None of this matters to me anymore.
I have my story, you have yours. I don't care
that they took his body, poured on water and words
to forgive him. So what if it rained
when his white box went down
into the hole. The only thing I carry with me
is his name. They numbered his grave
because I was unwed. The birth and death papers
list him as Baby Boy. All I want to tell you,
if you are still with me,
is that I named him Joseph.
His name is Joseph.


Poems by Kathleen Lynch:

Chicken in the Snow
Motel Baby
Love: The Basics
How to Build an Owl
Only Trees
The Spirit of Things
Everyone in Your Dreams Is You

TIMES TEN: An Anthology of Northern California Poets