By Kevin Young
Grave, my wife lies back, hands cross
her chest, while the doctor searches early
for your heartbeat, peach pit, unripe
plum—pulls out the world’s worst
boom box, a Mr. Microphone, to broadcast
your mother’s lifting belly.
The whoosh and bellows of mama’s body
and beneath it: nothing. Beneath
the slow stutter of her heart: nothing.
The doctor trying again to find you, fragile
fern, snowflake. Nothing.
After, my wife will say, in fear,
impatient, she went beyond her body,
this tiny room, into the ether—
for now, we spelunk for you one last time
lost canary, miner of coal
and chalk, lungs not yet black—
I hold my wife’s feet to keep her here—
and me—trying not to dive starboard
to seek you in the dark water. And there
it is: faint, an echo, faster and further
away than mother’s, all beat box
and fuzzy feedback. You are like hearing
hip-hop for the first time—power
hijacked from a lamppost—all promise.
You couldn’t sound better, break-
dancer, my favorite song bumping
from a passing car. You’ve snuck
into the club underage and stayed!
Only later, much, will your mother
begin to believe your drumming
in the distance—my Kansas City
and Congo Square, this jazz band
vamping on inside her.