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The green country sawbones
called it mute birth: the blue-faced
babes with bad hearts
couldn’t give a healthy cry.
No cure, almost no science
applied to distinguish
the doomed from those
choking. And so

my newborn father was set aside
as a lost cause beyond young
hemorrhaging grandmother,
his faint cardiac flutter,
oxygen fading in his veins,
skin pasty, then purpling
dark as slate pavestones
slicked with winter rain.

But the old nurse noticed
his chest’s fitful rise and fall,
got the bellows in his throat,
cleared the suffocating clots
and his heart. Was fine.
Was fine. His heart. Was fine.