won’t you? You will say,
“Father,” a miracle, and I,
your child, will answer.
THE SEVENTEENTH WEEK
Your mother once snaked her legs with mine
so that, I swear, with each moon phase
they seemed multiplied, my cat-eyed snake
goddess with navel ring. Now the magic
is slighter, hidden in an egg as if in a hat,
how you pull and pull to round her belly
and back, stretch a piercing into a crater
because it’s moon’s nature to want more
moon, I understand, but to steal her legs—
uncanny. But if you could see her pull back
against you, the mounting effort to marry her body
to full-body Boppy—the squirm, the hump,
the whole canine scooch-and-scooch to land
you atop the pillowed pedestal, to reduce
your effect—you’d regret your tidal slosh,
I know, but you needn’t. And if you could
see me behind her, uncovered by the fuss,
flat as sky, a shell shard, a dragonfly ring melting
under dust by the bathroom sink—like Boppy
was once suspended in plastic and shelved
in a distant store, a fossil’s reminder that nothing
foregrounds like background and is abortable forever—
you’d remember to rest easily, too, and wait
your turn because that is what moons do.
Your mother, if she can sleep, must sleep like a door
that won’t stay open, wedged by pillows to keep her
propped on the hinge of her left side, to keep you left,
too, close to the heart, a metronome for sleep.
There’s no crowding or kinking of the old sewer line,
the Inferior Vena Cava, which recycles breathless blood
below the waist, up along the spine, past the placenta—
the scenic route— to the right atrium. The best flow
prevents hypertension, hemorrhoids, and swelling, too,
of ankles and the already spreading feet of the exterior she.
Ultrasound shows by absence you are not a boy—you are
a half-this, half-that girl in your stylish vernix, urinating
and drinking where you swim, our 26-week-old baby fish
fountain we call Emerson. Everything in the amniotic
compost tastes delectable. Sometimes I hang my arm
around you both, my hand wedged beneath her globe,
feeling for kicks and heartbeats like hooves. Is this
how gods, not goddesses, pass time, waiting for function,
a door to open—your mother to finish the bottled water
on the night stand so I can fetch another?
In our neighborhood, where Texas Instruments
put up that barbed wire to make calculators,
where rental houses have aluminum siding
in the back instead of brick, your mother’s spine
curves like a bough of ripened apples. She’ll try
anything to coax you out. At bedtime, I inserted
suppositories of evening primrose oil, retrieved
maxi-pads when she forgot. Now, it’s sex we take,
our daily dose, and I confess it’s weird
inducement—my hormones plus her orgasm.
The cervix is dilated 3 of 10 centimeters, as if
a microscopic artillery shell exploded through
the chapel ceiling—I can almost touch you.
Mornings, I teach and drive to school, but afternoons
when I return as student, your mother needs the Jeep,
so I ride the bus. It’s a double life, doctoral husband.
Wednesday night is Fiction Workshop night,
and January 18th, a Wednesday, is the semester’s first
meeting, the last day before your birth, when I get
the call that stands me up in the middle of class
to announce, It’s time, like I’m trying out the fiction
of movies. Outside, I race over shadows and lawn
and spotted light because my line has only one bus,
and missing it could mean missing everything,
but like the movies again, I find a bus parked
at the stop: not Eagle Point, not Mean Green,
but mine, DiscoveryPark, waiting as your mother
waits, when it’s never waited for me before.
I haven’t believed in miracles or God in ages,
not since the eighties, when I discovered in high school
the pleasure of annotating the Bible. That was before
I got old and fat, lost my hair, my dogs, and forgot
how to play the piano, the trumpet, before I knew
death and divorce were synonyms. On board,
it’s just me and the driver, just destination and delivery,
and silence, until the bus climbs.
Sidney Thompson is the author of the short story collection Sideshow. He received his MFA from the University of Arkansas and is a PhD candidate at the University of North Texas. His poetry has appeared in The Midwest Quarterly and Metrosphere, and is forthcoming in RHINO Poetry. This series of poems is dedicated to his wife, Sara, and daughter, Sydney Emerson.