First Born

by Ellen Kombiyil
First Place, November 2007
Judged by E. Ethelbert Miller

(after Jean Valentine)

How deep your sea movements inside
Fisting open and open, my child,
My twin heart, covered in lanugo,
Fish-tailed, transparent, my loveliest
Memory-stain; I waited for
Your somersaults in the shower,
Or was that my own tilting,
I touched my breasts — how tender!
And imagined you curled in the dark,
My hardening, smooth belly, both of us
Ripening; dreams mere shapes,
And you the center Rorschach blot,
Dreams of my future, dreams of my past,
Or were they yours, all blotted,
And no one to tell me how to pass the time,
The Jewish ladies at the Y shouting, mach shnel,
Already! gone, gone, all excuses,
Your weight pressing on me, you
Filling out, carving the air,
Me, emptying, blood-marked,
Your tidal song seared down and scored,
How deep your fisting; your ink,
How dark! as we began.

Was I once covered in lanugo? This poem is celebratory and wonderful. If you're a man you might want to exchange your body for one that is female. Here the beginning of birth is documented in words. I like how culture and community tiptoes into this poem. I can see and hear the Jewish women--oh, how wise they are. --E. Ethelbert Miller