KR OnlinePoetrySpecial CollectionsThe Patricia Grodd Poetry Prize for Young Writers

A Birth

2004 First Prize

We ran to the barn in the dark,
bearing flashlights, beams
skimming over mud.
Alert with cold
and the smells of dirt and grain and peat,
we circled the first stall.

We were a row of rubber boots along
the rafters and the chicken coops.
We didn’t know what to do with our lights,
with our feet. We hadn’t seen
such a season of birth before,
of tender, counted deaths,
and we met eyes across the hay.

The ewe crouched before us,
her back buckled against the baby
slung too low in her womb.
There was not a nose,
but a tail forcing out first
and if this seared her,
she was silent.
One among us knew
what it meant, what was wrong
with the organs, the tissue,
and told us, “Her uterus
is turning inside out.”

Someone ran for the farmer.
It took another hour
in the textures of the dark,
the fleece, straw, rubber, blood,
for him to pull the backwards baby to the front.
An hour, for him to reach into the channels
of tense, wet skin
and pull her, flooded,

into the must of the barn.

He took her by the feet
and swung her in an arc of greased limbs and pinked flesh.
He spun her into breath.

We were awed and sick:
this first act of saving,
the shock of the sac crumpled on the ground,
the strange, spindly creature
who had come out of it.
We looked at each other again,
and at the newest among us,
unaware of our marvel
and learning her lungs
in the hush.