The Baby on the Table

by Dana Levin

Dana Levin

Everything is so dark under the baby, the table
floats legless,
a rectangle of light. Around it
the angels are bending their doctoral faces,
the baby unswaddled,
But can you see them? See the kleigs
bearing down on the infant, throwing up a stark light
on the angels’ faces, how Mary
seeps into the black floor, dress vanishing
in its deepening
She is a head, a moon, floating without expression
above her naked child,
the distance between them filling with ready,
angels bending closer in a luminous cone—
Will they do it? Will they dip their hands
into the light?
Will they fish out its heart, its lungs, its soul
like an aspirin, lifting it bloodless
from the milky white?
Must there come a time, a line, a moment, a stanza
where I say

On February 9th, 1965, I was slit through the belly
without anesthetic
to remove a gangrenous illium? To make you look
in the sterile bucket at the side
of the gurney,
at the blackened, pussed, and stinking intestine,
to tap your shoulder and look in your face asking
Is that you? Is that you?
Have you ever been hurt, have you ever been cut, is it only
physical knives?
Is this how I write about
the baby on the table? By looking at a
poor black-and-white print of a nameless Adoration
by the school of Jan-Stephan Von Calcar?
The print is so poor, is that an egg, a star
through the trees in the distance,
are they sheep, are they men,
kneeling under its light? I can’t tell
if they are bending in lamentation or praising
hallelujah, if the egg
is a cross
in a circle of light—when will they lower

the kiss, the fist, the sharpened
scalpel, the angels
are waiting, calm, impassive, the emanations
of science
in each white face—
Can you help me sew up
what they’re about to open? Can you feel
the chill of the table
on your own small back?
I keep looking at the baby again and again,
outlined on the table by a membrane
of shadow,
how it looks up at the sky unconcerned— Where
is the fault
in this studied composure? Where is the crack in the gloss
over suffering,
is it here, at the base, where the paint is chipping,
revealing the starkness beneath? Look in there,
in the fissures between
the blackened oils, and see the form
of your very own cross,
slipping through the vent in the hospital nursery
and alighting on your chest your chosen
marking you for the scalpels of light.

Last updated September 09, 2022