Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2018  Vol. 17 No. 1
an online journal of literature and the arts
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Liver of Sulfur

Our son isn’t due to arrive
for two weeks, but already he knows
the threat and wreck
of this place: a truck slammed

into Naomi’s small, blue car,
crumpled its trunk into the back seat,
spilled the rear windshield
onto the Schuylkill Expressway

(the Sure Kill said the nodding neighbor
as I rushed to a cab
and the university hospital).

In the perinatal center,
the doctors seemed confident
that Naomi and the boy—
we plan to name him Asa—
were unhurt and healthy.
But their art, all slow drip
and ultrasound, their confidence
is alchemy to me: Liver of Sulfur,
Horn Silver, Fulminating Gold.
How can they know? How do
their beeps and blips rule out
a spinal tear, a contusion
on the brain, uterine rupture?

I can’t think about it.

I can’t think about it, and
for now, I’m sweating
in the abandoned, overgrown lot
that verges on our postage-stamp garden,
and lopping at grasping vines
of wild grape that are bullying
the rosebay we’ve planted.
I’ve been reading Borges
and while I hack, I repeat
to myself: the knife, so intimate,

opening my throat.
Borges lived, I was surprised to learn,
into years I remember, early grade school,
Turtle Rock Elementary. His name
translates to of the town. Bourgeoisie
if you’re cynical. Asa means healer
in one language, hawk in another.

I’m down to the last of the vines,
but before summer ends
I’ll have to cut them back again.
the knife,

so intimate. Healer
and hawk. Healer and hawk.
Think of all the people, Asa,
who have lived, as Borges,
while I’ve lived, all those
who will live while you live.
Those, all those, who will die.  

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