The Abandoned Newborn

Published December 23, 1997 8:45PM (EST)

When they found you, you were not breathing.

It was ten degrees below freezing, and you were

wrapped only in plastic. They lifted you

up out of the litter basket, as one

lifts a baby out of the crib after nap

and they unswaddled you from the Sloan's shopping bag.

As far as you were concerned it was all over,

you were feeling nothing, everything had stopped

some time ago,

and they bent over you and forced the short

knife-blade of breath back

down into your chest, over and

over, until you began to feel

the pain of life again. They took you

from silence and darkness right back

through birth, the gasping, the bright lights, they

achieved their miracle: on the second

day of the new year they brought you

back to being a boy whose parents

left him in a garbage can,

and everyone in the Emergency Room

wept to see your very small body

moving again. I saw you on the news,

the discs of the electrocardiogram

blazing like medals on your body, your hair

thick and ruffed as the head of a weed, your

large intelligent forehead dully

glowing in the hospital TV light, your

mouth pushed out as if you are angry, and

something on your upper lip, a

dried glaze from your nose,

and I thought how you are the most American baby,

child of all of us through your very

American parents, and through the two young medics,

Lee Merklin and Frank Jennings,

who brought you around and gave you their names,

forced you to resume the hard

American task you had laid down so young,

and though I see the broken glass on your path, the

shit, the statistics -- you will be a man who

wraps his child in plastic and leaves it in the trash -- I

see the light too as you saw it

forced a second time in silver ice between your lids, I am

full of joy to see your new face among us,

Lee Frank Merklin Jennings I am

standing here in dumb American praise for your life.

Copyright ) 1985 by Sharon Olds. Used by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. No use of this material is authorized without the express written consent of the Licensor.

By Sharon Olds

Among Sharon Olds' other collections of poetry are "Satan Says," "The Dead and the Living," "The Father" and her latest book, "The Wellspring." She teaches poetry workshops in the Graduate Creative Writing Program at New York University and helps run the N.Y.U. workshop program at Goldwater Hospital on Roosevelt Island in New York.

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