He was facing the wrong way. Three weeks before birth,
and the baby had his head nudged up under her ribcage,
the crown within inches of her heart.
They would wait, the doctor told her, to see if he would right himself.
"Write himself," she heard him say, and drifted into a vision of her son,
her son who had turned toward her and away from the world,
writing in the water, making word-ripples with his small hands.
This was how she knew him.
Two weeks before birth the doctor suggested an office visit,
the laying on of hands. Four hands manhandling, turning him.
She could not sleep. He sent her messages all night.
She postponed the appointment.
Beside her, the baby's father dreamed of swimming
alone in the pond. In the dream, he had sonar,
like a bat, like a person underwater.
He could feel waves pulsing in the dark.
One week before birth, they lay in bed all morning.
He was resting also.
His father ran his hand over his mother's belly, then lay with an
to the curve of it, listening to the gurgling and the quiet.
"Tell him," she said. "Tell him to turn."
His father slid down lower on the bed, so that his head was in her lap.
"My love," he whispered, "my sweet love.
The world has wished for you."
Nothing happened. He felt the sadness
fathers often feel. She opened her eyes
and looked down at him, took his hand
and placed it against her heart.
Soon the rhythm was thrumming in him,
as when he lay against her, breast to breast.
He began making the low, steady beat:
Ba-bm, ba-bm, ba-bm, ba-bm.
The pulse he lived in echoed underneath.
It was entering him from both directions. It was calling him.
He could not rest. He began moving, turning toward the echo,
toward the world that would trick him and love him this way.
Poems by Lisa Sitkin:
TEN: An Anthology of Northern California Poets