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 Amen 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 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.