Crèche Scene with My Son

John Philip Drury

No one would want that clinic on their lawn,
delivery room aglow in fluorescent light
where, since it belonged to a university,
each specialist had students who observed
the half-successful epidural drip.

The monitors that checked his vital signs
alarmed the nurses, who believed he might
be starved for air. They started agitating
to prep his mother for a Caesarian,
but no, the wires had simply come unstuck.

The obstetrician, really just an intern
with pudgy fingers, washed his hands but froze
when it came time to deliver, so a nurse
waylaid a doctor passing in the hallway,
a surgeon from Algeria, tall and balding,
who stepped in, sat down, and shouted, “Push, push!”
unclogging what had stalled. The intern, still
in cap and mask, retreated to the wall,
deliverer of nothing, dazed by panic.

Two dozen medical professionals
crowded the bed, gawked at the baby Eric
who slid out like a football, though a nurse
still snipped to make a bigger opening,
giving her student the chance to sew it back.

They let me cut the cord. He had turned blue,
his scores low, but I gazed to memorize
his face and bare scalp. That was a good thing,
because when he was in intensive care
a bossy nurse tried to hand me a baby
with full, dark, glossy hair. “That’s not my son!”
I told her, but I had to plead until
she checked his nametag on a plastic bracelet.

He wasn’t baptized, wasn’t circumcised,
going naked into the secular world
without the primal memory of faces
crowding his crib to glimpse nativity,
seminar room of angels taking notes
and Magi who left nothing when they left,
making their rounds, wearing their stethoscopes
like silver medals dangling over scrubs.

John Philip Drury is the author of four full-length poetry collections: Sea Level Rising (Able Muse Press, 2015), The Refugee Camp (Turning Point Books, 2011), Burning the Aspern Papers (Miami University Press, 2003), and The Disappearing Town (Miami University Press, 2000). He has also written Creating Poetry and The Poetry Dictionary, both published by Writers’ Digest Books. His poems have appeared in The Hudson Review, Poetry, The Southern Review, The American Poetry Review, and The Paris Review, which awarded one of his long poems the Bernard F. Conners Prize. Memoir chapters appeared in the Ploughshares Solos series, The Gettysburg Review, The Evansville Review, and Alligator Juniper. He teaches at the University of Cincinnati.