GREY BABY 18 YEARS ON

For the story behind this poem, which appeared in New Writing Scotland, read my blog.

GREY BABY

BY IAN HUNTER

Just a nick the midwife says

the blade and the blood moving

everything up a gear

the sliver of scalp and dark hair widens

as the head emerges and you

stand ready, scissors in your hand,

names on your lips,

like some ship-launching ceremony

but the champagne goes quickly flat

with the sight of the cord around the

baby's neck

to heighten the drama the monitor

now refuses to show any heartbeat

and you can't seem to get the words

oh fuck oh fuck oh fuck

out of your head

as you stand rigid, until elbowed

aside by the other midwife

naming and cutting forgotten now

your sweaty hand holding your wife

back from the edge of exhaustion

and the baby appears

a boy, grey, lifeless

like some sort of glistening frog

waiting for dissection

arms and legs stretched out, frozen

the shock of life too great

we'll just clean out his tubes

the midwife says as they take

away your son

and your wife's hand opens

hours of effort and drugs take

their toll

she slips away, leaving you

not quite alone, but still the loneliest

you have ever felt

while you stand, shuffling,

after seven hours,

desperate for a pee,

just desperate