September 25, 2022

Changing the Baby

by David P. Miller

The year I round the bend to forty-nine,
my mother emails infant memory kernels
to her four sons on their birthdays.
Her key word for me, her first: mystique.

This is the mystique: I was the baby
fresh home from the maternity ward,
wafted across the threshold by her,
anxious married woman of twenty.

She and her sister, all alone
with the baby, who saturated
his first dank domestic diaper.
Where was my grandmother in this crisis?

Preparation for Parenthood class,
its inert doll child to practice on,
she’d soldiered through it, sharp student.
So very unprepared for someone
like a real live, squirming, baby,
her new separate stranger.

Perverse diaper origami refused to obey
two young women’s hands.
Open safety pin rapiers angled impish
to pierce the newborn. The baby

thrashed merrily for nearly an hour
in his ungarbed state of nature.
My mother writes, How it could have
taken us an hour boggles my mind!

With the first reswaddled diaper,
success, the baby had been changed.
(Doesn’t that also ring something
like fairytale-fumbling of right infants
into wrong cradles, pauper for prince?)

But it was the baby who changed you,
sprung your young life open.
What was next I didn’t know,
you tell me. Mother, we knew
forty-nine years of nexts by then.
We had seven years remaining:
that, we didn’t know.