PROTOMEMORY

Originally Posted on The Yale Herald - Medium via UWIRE

Image from Axiom Images

I can almost see them, there together

in the plane’s close cabin,

the propellor chopping.

My mother lies on a gurney and my father sits

beside her: nervous, I imagine, moving his long hands

forward and back on his kneecaps. He glances

at the incubator pushed against the wall —

empty but on, its glassy sides humming.

The two holes where you put your arms in

are like blank goggles, staring at him.

It was late at night or very early

in the morning, he remembers,

and I picture a blinking light on the wingtip,

darkness through the single window. Far off,

a smear of sunset, greenish, low along

the thick cloud cover:

sunset or maybe sunrise,

one behind them, one before them —

close to the solstice as it must have been,

and so far north, I wonder

if there really was a night for them at all

or just two long summer days, stitched together

by the briefest dimming of the lights.

Over Crescent Harbor and the Sitka Sound,

the deep cedar forests, the one white mountain

which my mother loved to paint

and which, I’ve since learned,

is called “The Sister” —

the tiny light of the plane moves over

the water, my parents inside.

And we float silently in

an ocean of our own:

my sister and I, not yet born, in the briny darkness

that precedes the beginning.

Twenty-eight weeks at that point, our bodies curled

like the bodies of shrimp — the globes

of our heads, veined and translucent,

almost lit up: glowing with blood.


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