Lynne Knight

Water Child

We didn’t talk much about the brother who died
while being born because a drug
the doctor gave my mother was too strong,
meant to kill pain she could still feel
decades later, though when asked
she said only The doctor felt terrible,
her way of setting limits to the unbearable.

If we did talk, we called him the first one 
or the one born dead. Born dead! I’d stare
at my mother’s stomach, dreading something 
bloodied and skinless would slide silently
to the floor. No one would say anything
as we wrapped it in old newspapers to hide
deep where the garbage man wouldn’t see.

In Japan, they call those who weren’t 
born with their breath water children
because they live and die in the salty sac water. 
My mother’s body held tears never shed. 
They made a watery grave for the dead one. 
We never talked about the times she felt him 
try to rise out of it, desperate for breath.