DSQ > Spring 2008, Volume 28, No.2

Disabled Child at the Community Pool

This is how it begins: ten fingers, ten toes,

or earlier: fetus, womb,

earlier still: sperm, egg,

even earlier: eyes, then lips, then…

Regardless, what matters is not how, when,

but, in the end, what emerges, whole.

They look to verify the expectation of whole:

ten fingers, ten toes.

If no, they try to figure out when

damage occurred, a fall while in the womb.

She thinks, if I hadn't, then…

Fetuses are fragile, brittle as the shell of an egg.

Parents' voices heated, crackle like a frying egg.

For a time, everything breaks, unable to be whole.

Life becomes, if only this hadn't, then…

Reeling, unable to grasp, grip, as their child does with toes,

they desire retreat, if not back to the womb,

then to a time when babies were simply a question of when.

Instead, the question becomes what to do, not when.

How to fashion the life that emerged from the egg,

how to protect him, as though he were still in the womb,

yet, let him live, free, and somehow, whole.

A firm foundation to plant feet, toes,

so he doesn't think, if only I hadn't been born, then…

So the child is here, a who is, not an if, then…

He splashes in the pool, oblivious to when

closing time is. He floats, and peaking above the surface, toes.

Mother packs their leftovers: sandwiches, a hard-boiled egg.

Father wades in to pull him out, his body, un-whole, yet whole.

Unheeding, he floats in the middle; the pool — his womb.

Of course, it's not possible to stay in the womb,

to avoid the gawkers' eyes saying, if not for God's grace, then…

assuming their lives are more whole.

For him, his parents, life's become a succession of when,

though wounds still may crack open, raw as an uncooked egg,

as others, staring, silently say, ten fingers, ten toes.

But this moment isn't about fingers, toes, womb.

Toweled off, the child bites into the egg, inquires, after home, then…

fashioning his own expectations of when, his world already whole.

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