” … breakdancer, my favourite song … “

Expecting, by Kevin Young


Grave, my wife lies back, hands cross

her chest, while the doctor searches early

for your heartbeat, peach pit, unripe


plum – pulls out the world’s worst

boom box, a Mr. Microphone, to broadcast

your mother’s lifting belly.


The whoosh and bellows of mama’s body

and beneath it: nothing. Beneath

the slow shutter of her heart: nothing.


The doctor trying again to find you, fragile

fern, snowflake. Nothing.

After, my wife will say, in fear,


impatient, she went beyond her body,

this tiny room, into the ether –

for now, we spelunk you for one last time


lost canary, miner of coal

and chalk, lungs not yet black –

I hold my wife’s feet to keep her here –


and me – trying not to dive starboard

to seek you in the dark water. And there

it is: faint, an echo, faster and further


away than mother’s, all beat box

and fuzzy feedback. You are like hearing

hip-hop for the first time – power


hijacked from a lamppost – all promise.

You couldn’t sound better, break-

dancer, my favorite song bumping


from a passing car. You’ve snuck

into the club underage and stayed!

Only later, much, will your mother


begin to believe your drumming

in the distance – my Kansas City

and Congo Square, this jazz band


vamping on inside her.


[Dylan shook me awake on a rainy Sunday morning to read this poem, in the New Yorker he was reading in bed. I loved it instantly. And then went back to sleep.]


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