When they lift the baby to my chest, his skin’s still slick
with clots of vernix. The soft plates of his skull
are compressed into a cone, and his dark hair is damp
with amniotic fluid. I inhale the unwashed funk
and watch as this tiny naked mammal roots
and nuzzles, as thick yellow colostrum
dribbles from each nipple. For two days in recovery
we’re tended, measured, fed and fussed over. The baby
barely cries from his tiny toothless mouth. Fireworks
crackle somewhere in the distance. He wakes once
in the night and I hold his swaddled body
in the gray light. In the hospital I’m a good mother.
Nancy Reddy is the author of Double Jinx (Milkweed Editions, 2015), a 2014 winner of the National Poetry Series, and Acadiana (Black Lawrence Press, 2018). Her poems have appeared in Pleiades, Blackbird, The Iowa Review, Smartish Pace, and elsewhere. The recipient of a Walter E. Dakin Fellowship from the Sewanee Writers’ Conference and grants from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts and the Sustainable Arts Foundation, she teaches writing at Stockton University in southern New Jersey.