First Birth (After Sharon Olds) [poem] by Kelley White

They taught us little, and what they taught us
I had not learned, so I just took it as it came:
slippery, the naked body blue-grey, greased,
slipping as I turned it in my hands, blood
rushing dark and clotting at my feet, the twisted rope
unearthly white and pulsing under that too-bright
glare, little lips pinking and the small mouth
opening to a cry, arms flailing, fingers spread
chest flaring at my wet gloved touch scrotum
shrunken knees flexed the nurse reaching
to stamp the sole blue as his mother’s thumb,
I sucking and squirting with the basting bulb
my mask wet, then the dry hot lamp the wrapping
the wet gloves and blood-soaked gown pulled
from my body, my face free, hands bare
to hold that too sweet pinked-up bundle
beside the mother’s swamped face:
I signed on for the duration.


Image of 1930s Switchboard Operator

[Refer: This poem refers to Sharon Olds “First Sex.”]

Image by jenny cu via Flicker Creative Commons

 Pediatrician Kelley White worked in inner-city Philadelphia and now works in rural New Hampshire. Her poems have appeared in journals including Exquisite Corpse, Rattle and JAMA.  Her most recent books are Toxic Environment and Two Birds in Flame. She received a 2008 Pennsylvania Council on the Arts grant.