Newborn – John Delaney

Test: Positive

The test-tube test was taken this morning.
Result: a rust-colored doughnut-shaped ring.

That such a means should bring first proof of you
suggests the magic of this fragile life,
the sleight-of-love that makes the wish come true.
Yet pride insists we make a full disclosure:
you were the best laid scheme of man and wife,
in mind and body, consummate pleasure,

twice conceived. Eight months from now your crying
will prove this was no trick our bodies play.
After a year and a half of trying
the random ritual, the contrived act,
imagine our delight to learn today
you’re no longer an idea, but a fact.


Daughter/son, wrapped in your survival sac,
don’t get the wrong idea. That’s not the world,
though you’re in striking range of it. Cramped, curled,
camped like a soldier in his bivouac,
no doubt you don’t know what you’re fighting for.
And powerless, your infantry can’t stay
the forces that are gathering. Your choice
was made for you, but you can win this war
because you have staunch allies in the fray,
who will not rest until they hear your voice
cry its victory. If worse comes to worst,
freedom will bring pain, some shell-shock trouble.
Meanwhile, Mom’s belly grows like a bubble,
where all you know of life is due to burst.

Touching Down

Described in books as stages, labor blasts off
from the pages like a rocket shuttling to outer space.
But reading didn’t prepare me for the lift-off I got at your birth
when you emerged headfirst, like an astronaut
on a space walk: the new-world look of your worried face,
the rubbery cord slipping out, your breathless cough
lost in the gobbledygook of us aliens. Mom became the earth
where you landed, my hands, the gravity that caught
and carried you there. In her cosmic cap
and antiseptic garb, the midwife monitored
our flawless mission. Later, tucked in the orbit
of her arms, wrapped in a towel, you beamed from your first nap
a trace of a smile—just enough to admit
the welcome greetings we were whispering you heard.

Baby’s Room

The crib’s padded cell cradles its felon.
Above, the mobile fates of Mother Goose
circle to the tune of Brahms’ Lullaby.
On the wall, in pastels of lime and lemon
playfully squeezed of all bestial juice,
the peaceable kingdom stretches to the sky.

The drafting table in the corner charms
disasters, for on its horizontal plane
all soiled plans are cleaned and put behind.
And raring on its rug, with open arms,
a restless rocker reaches out to rein
in doubts that rouse the wrath of infant mind.

Changed here and comforted, enticed to nurse
and sleep, Baby basks in love’s universe.

After retiring as curator of historic maps at Princeton University Library, I moved out to Port Townsend, WA. Since that transition, I have published Waypoints (2017), a collection of place poems, Twenty Questions (2019), a chapbook, and Delicate Arch (2022), poems and photographs of national parks and monuments.

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