Novus 1972 plays on a loop through the long march
of hours in the darkened birthing room.

Do I move you?
Is it thrilling?
Do I groove you?
Are you willing?

I am mouthing these familiar lyrics,
swaying through the tightenings I take standing up,

the corset of flesh, pink ribbons
of muscle, lacing together
as she tunnels down facing the wrong way.

On her descent, her spine thuds
jarring against each of my vertebra
as if she were looking back
at a liquid vision she has left behind her,

as if she would remain
in that dwindling starless night,

but this bone-scraping labor is nothing
like the pangs that wracked
me for days after the small vacuum
had emptied my womb and what spilled
from me was nacreous and bleak.

For years I had been tethered to an insistent terror,
led by the nose like a beast pierced through its septum.
I had cast over it veils of defiance,
and though it had left my sight, smoke
still issued from my mouth as if I had swallowed fire,

as if its violence had smoldered down and
sunken into ash, and live embers
still glowed inside.

Now in these volcanic surges, in the burning ring
as she crowns,

as femurs and pelvis, and the inward spiral
pull back to release her, I yield
and I open.

My body turns
inside out.

by Wendy Chin-Tanner

This poem appears in the poetry collection “Turn” (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2014).
Website: Stealing Time Magazine, a Literary Magazine for Parents