Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
SIDS

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The doctor came, innocuous cup in hand,
explaining that formalities always follow
when babies no longer breathe.

Your uncle, sober now for years,
offered clean piss as a condolence for our loss,
but the police were already riding,
Safford Avenue to Thatcher Boulevard,
to photograph pre-autopsy guilt
found in spilled ashtrays and postered walls.

Guttural sounds disappeared behind cigarette-hands
as you pressed forehead to wall,
hating last night's peaceful slumber,
wondering at your wide flung arm
this morning when you woke

Between dry-heave sobs, I heard an infant's cry.
Habit lifted my head, wet the front of my nightshirt,
the waistband of my shorts,
with surprisingly sweet and sticky mother's milk
searching for a mouth.

The nurse grimaced, turned her head away,
fingering the small silver dolls
hung from a chain around her neck.

The room stank of raw wounds
rubbed with nicotine, echoed
empty explanations. The preacher shook,
stammered words of Godly reason.

He will not give you more than you can bear,
this a taunt, a dare, disallowing
steam-bath contemplations,
chiding you to breathe.


Jamie Calloway is a first-year MFA student at Mills College in Oakland, California. She has two sons, Collin and Jeremy, and has published in The Allegheny Review and The Collegiate Scholar, Summer 2006.


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