Sharon Olds

The Abandoned Newborn

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.

spoken = Linsay Rousseau