Poetry blogging: “I see the light too as you saw it”

“The Abandoned Newborn”

Sharon Olds

from The Gold Cell

When they found you, you were not breathing.
It was ten degrees below freezing, and you were
wrapped only in plastic. They lifted you
up out of the litter basket, as one
lifts a baby out of the crib after nap
and they unswaddled you from the Sloan’s shopping bag.
As far as you were concerned it was all over,
you were feeling nothing, everything had stopped
some time ago,
and they bent over you and forced the short
knife-blade of breath back
down into your chest, over and
over, until you began to feel
the pain of life again. They took you
from silence and darkness right back
through birth, the gasping, the bright lights, they
achieved their miracle: on the second
day of the new year they brought you
back to being a boy whose parents
left him in a garbage can,
and everyone in the Emergency Room
wept to see your very small body
moving again. I saw you on the news,
the discs of the electrocardiogram
blazing like medals on your body, your hair
thick and ruffed as the head of a weed, your
large intelligent forehead dully
glowing in the hospital TV light, your
mouth pushed out as if you are angry, and
something on your upper lip, a
dried glaze from your nose,
and I thought how you are the most American baby,
child of all of us through your very
American parents, and through the two young medics,
Lee Merklin and Frank Jennings,
who brought you around and gave you their names,
forced you to resume the hard
American task you had laid down so young,
and though I see the broken glass on your path, the
shit, the statistics — you will be a man who
wraps his child in plastic and leaves it in the trash — I
see the light too as you saw it
forced a second time in silver ice between your lids, I am
full of joy to see your new face among us,
Lee Frank Merklin Jennings I am
standing here in dumb American praise for your life.


3 Responses

  1. The Gold Cell is one of my favorite books of poems, ever. I like it so much, I have two copies. I know that makes no sense, but it’s true.

  2. Yup-it’s the first Olds book I got and still my favorite. I saw her read on tour for it. Can still remember that reading vividly. “Vivid” is a good descriptor for her writing-the reader can’t “not see” the scene she describes, can they? And speaking for myself, I am defenseless before it-her stuff can still reduce me to tears no matter how many times I’ve read it.You know that poem about her son in the tub with his broken arm? Just thinking about that makes me cry…

  3. […] trackback Two years ago today the annual National Book Festival was held in Washington, DC and Sharon Olds, National Book Critics Circle Award winning poet, was invited with a number of other writers by […]

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