Getting Born

Original Text: 
Carol Shields, Coming to Canada: Poems, ed. Christopher Levenson (Ottawa: Carleton University Press, 1992): 3-4.
1Odd 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.
7My 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
15The 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
22well, 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
27The 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 --
34   to do it well
35You 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
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
Special Copyright: 

"Getting Born" © copyright the Estate of Carol Shields. Printed gratis,
and specifically for <i>Representative Poetry Online</i>,
with permission of her Estate. Any other use,
including reproduction for any purposes,
educational or otherwise, will require explicit
written permission from the Estate of Carol Shields.