Coming to Canada: Poems, ed.
Christopher Levenson (Ottawa: Carleton University Press,
1 Odd that no one knows how 2 it feels to be born, 3 whether it's one smooth whistling ride 4 down green, ether-muffled air 5 or whether the first breath burns 6 in the lungs with the redness of flames. 7 My time and place are fixed: 8 at least -- Chicago 1935 9 in the "midst of the depression" -- as folks said 10 then. The hospital still stands, 11 a pyramid of red bricks 12 made clumsy by air shafts -- only now 13 there's a modern wing 14 smooth as an office tower 15 The doctor is dead 16 not only dead but erased 17 "What was his name anyway? An Irish name, 18 wasn't it? -- began with an M." 19 There's something 20 careless about this forgetting 21 something dull and humiliating 22 well, he died in the war 23 probably a young man with 24 smooth hands, a blank face 25 paved over 26 like a kind of cement 27 The doctor is dead 28 Birth is an improvised procedure 29 Coming alive 30 just half a ceremony 31 composed of breath 32 a clutch at simple air -- 33 impossible 34 to do it well 35 You slipped out like a lump of butter 36 my mother said 37 her voice 38 for once 39 choked with merriment 40 eyes rolled upward toward the ceiling, 41 round, white, young, 42 clear 43 oh shame
"Getting Born" © copyright the Estate of Carol Shields. Printed gratis,
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