Poetry at Sangam



Helping Her Breathe by Brian Turner

Subtract each sound. Subtract it all.
Lower the contrailed decibels of fighter jets
below the threshold of human hearing.
Lower the skylining helicopters down
to the subconscious and let them hover
like spiders over a film of water.

Silence the rifle reports. The hissing
bullets wandering like strays
through the old neighborhoods.
Let the dogs rest their muzzles
as the voices in telephone lines
pause to listen, as bats hang
from their roosts pause to listen,
as all of Baghdad listens.

Dip the rag in the pail of water
and let it soak full. It cools exhaustion
when pressed lightly to her forehead.
In the slow beads of water sliding
down the skin of her temples—
the hush we have been waiting for.

She is giving birth in the middle of war—
the soft dome of a skull begins to crown
into our candlelit mystery. And when
the infant rises through quickening muscle
in a guided shudder, slick in the gore
of birth, vast distances are joined,
the brain’s landscape equal to the stars.