Excerpts > Winter 2003

Richard Tayson


The midwife says the baby’s head
is crowning, I can see it
just beyond the vestibulum,
pink vestibule draped in purple
folds and crimson velvet, where
the child awaits the appointed hour,
hesitating before the midwife’s hands.
Overripe plum in patches, the forehead
becomes more human each minute,
appearing flat, at first, then yielding
its curves to the midwife’s palms
as they usher the tiny body forward,
past the fornix and flesh curtain
of labia majora. Laura’s
face is also dark, swollen
with effort, her body
not quite ready, prone
in the water her husband and I heated
two hours ago, her head now cradled
in my brother’s hands. This, then, is
the crowning of the next generation,
the feudal lord of Sonoma, California
passing on the land and its riches
to the child dropping slowly down—
cranium, glabella, temple—through
creased labia minora, color
of the crocus unfurling. The midwife
leans forward and is the first
to touch the skull, her expression
registers awe at the thought of it,
and it happens quicker now,
Laura arches her back, her belly
rises out of the water, everything
in the house now holy—domed
portal, narthex, nave, niched
saints in Corinthian columns,
all of us postulants in waiting—
I have never known the female body.
Laura makes sustained gutteral
sounds as the child’s head
is released from the other world
into the blood-flecked water
of this earth, and all of us
lean closer to see the mother
and child in mirrored relation,
the maker and the made at the center
of the effort to separate, to enable
this new being to take his place among us.

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