Labor and Delivery, Part II – Kristin LaFollette

We honored our sacred rituals:
Cake of soap worked to a lather at the wash basin
Sterile gloves placed over damp hands
Disposable gown tied at the waist

An anesthesiologist searched the young woman’s spine,
administered medication to bring stillness to labor. 
My fingernails formed half-moons in my palms
as everyone gathered and waited like horses, 
our faces lowered, our teeth churning leaves to
fine powder.

The woman recited her daughter’s name into the pillowcases
until she emerged in a rush of fluid and blood, 
purple-blue skin coated in vernix, 
thick and unmoving like wax.


When the boy, the youngest, was born,
I stood with my father and older brother
in the observatory overlooking the OR.

I was almost eight and the cutting 
and shifting of organs felt endless
until his body came loose from the folds of tissue, 
his skin bathed in proteins and whole blood,

nourishment, birthright, 
and blessing absorbed and circulated 
like silt—

Kristin LaFollette

Kristin LaFollette is the author of Hematology (winner of the 2021 Harbor Editions Laureate Prize) and Body Parts (winner of the 2017 GFT Press Chapbook Contest). She received her Ph.D. from Bowling Green State University and is a professor at the University of Southern Indiana.

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