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The Mercury Cafe 
2199 California St.,
Denver, CO 

 

 

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Dead Baby 

There's a dead baby in your yard
the newsboy said when he knocked on the door.
There was a dead baby in the yard
over by the fence.
It was naked. It was blue.  It was bloody
placenta all over the ground
and red spots on the fence.  Red spots on the fence
led them over the top
to the trail of blood in the neighbor's yard
to the back door
and into the room of a 13 year old,
the childless mother
of the dead baby in the yard next door.
I heard a cry late last night,
a neighbor reported,
Thought it was a cat or a bird,

But what did she do alone in that room at thirteen?
Did she cry out?  Teddy bear stuffed in her mouth?
Did she scoop up her arms? Scream?
Her legs pumping the mantra of a child
giving birth in terror all alone:
Get rid of it, then wash up, no one will know
Did she rise up then
Get rid of it
and take the baby to the fence?
Go wash up, it's gone now, no one will know
it's over, I'm dying, wash up now,
it's gone over the fence now. . .

There's a dead baby in your yard
the newsboy said when he knocked on the door.
There was a dead baby in the yard
over by the fence.
It was wrapped in slick papers,
the Sunday supplement
multicolored  ink-stains
bloody from the birth
yellow rubber gloves flopped next to the puddle,
man-sized gloves.  Playtex
like what you use to wash the whitewalls on your tires
to strip furniture
to clean the oven
or to pull a baby out
that doesn't want to come
when you don't know what you're doing
so you reach in and pull harder
and the head comes out and it's blue
and the cord's wrapped around
and you don't know what you're doing
and you reach in and pull harder
and the yellow gloves pull harder
and you're scared
and it's blue and she's dying,
so you reach for the Parade section
and roll the baby in it
and you don't know what you're doing
and you're sorry
and you drop it over the fence
hand over head
like a kid mailing a letter
and you turn the gloves inside out
and you run home before dark.

There's a dead baby in your yard
the newsboy said when he knocked on the door.,
There was a dead baby in the yard
over by the fence.
It was dressed all in white lace
a christening gown
white on white layers.
The baby had been washed,
the clothes had been pressed
it had all been prepared,
a small bonnet crocheted
a pearl ribbon woven through.
It was wrapped in a cover
a hand-knitted blanket,
the edges folded back,
the kind a grandmother would weave
the kind a grandmother would dream
the perfect baby
the son she'd never had,
the one she could spoil,
the one she deserved.

There's a dead baby in your yard
the newsboy said when he knocked on the door.
There was a dead baby in the yard
over by the fence.
No, don't know nothing 'bout no fence,
the Granddaddy said.
Yeah, so I fucked her. So what!
her face on the tile
black and white tile
bathroom floor,
towel over her head.
So now she's knocked up and squalling out back
That boyfriend hanging around
her mother drinking her share and mine too.
Serves her right for running around
for saying she'd talk, for backtalking me.

The neighbor next door
was the one who was right
who heard that night late
the cat and the bird
Take me to the fence, the baby
begged them.   And when the newsboy arrived
he saw an alley cat out back
tugging at  some meat. 
He heard a single black bird
a cry in the wind. 
He rushed to tell all of them
what all of them already knew.

There's a dead baby in our yard
the newsboy says,
and something knocks at our door.

"Dead Baby," was published in The Denver Quarterly, Summer 1993. 

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