Richard Levine


Watching you being born,
spasms of desperation kidnapped
your mother from my wife.

For months you’d disfigured her flesh,
now her sex. In a paper gown,
I stood far yet near at her side,

our intimacy exposed and reduced
to my encouraging – Breathe! Breathe!
We labored together with billowed cheeks,

like toads or Dizzy Gillespie mimes.
But it was no joke, my lover and best friend,
mother-to-be, writhed away on waves

beyond my reach or any way back.
Then, with the desperate grip
of one drowning, she seized my hand.

The midwives, between her parted knees,
held their breath. The monitors raced
and beeped and blinked red eyes.

It was then I witnessed your head
surfacing, and with the stunningly delicate
violence of one more breath, scream

and push, you were in the room!
Still yoked with birth-slop,
you cried out

in a voice even you had never heard.
It was the voice of sucking air
for the first time, the voice of lungs

spreading like a yawn to fill
the room, and everyone in it
in attendance on you.  Handing me

surgical scissors, a nurse pointed,
“Here,” and I cut us all off
from the way we’d lived a breath ago.

Demonstrating how to hold you,
she placed you supine in my arms –
head in the cup of one hand,

perfect spine in the hammock
support of a forearm – even
as you took hold and support.

We Children

Stealing away from seed catalogues
studied by a January fire,
my mind’s eyes plants me
among days-old seed husks
still clinging to leaves,
unfolding as hands from prayers
already answered as avowed.

Up the flue go the smoke and flame
and longing, to be traveling
the short distances along rows
that make the long journey to harvest.
That’s when I can say: This is spring!
This is the Earth! And we Children
among what is given.