I delivered seventeen placentas that summer,
maybe eighteen, I didn’t keep track.
I didn’t understand yet why I should—
I’d bought the party line that the baby
was the main attraction, you had to be alert
for a nuchal cord, blue amber in lumps
around her neck, reduced with legerdemain.
Magic— that was the goal anyway. Not the placenta
livid aspic in a silver tray, taken to pathology
only to search for its failures, then discarded.
No one was planting them at the foot of a sapling
then. It’s nice, I guess, but you still pay
attention to the tree, its slender trunk, white
blossom like a bewildering squall in May.
The placenta is forgotten again, purposefully,
the way any small adulation of the woman
in the broken-down bed has been forgotten.
I’m being generous in ascribing forgetfulness
to us all; there’s a revulsion at seeing
what’s required to create sentience, the thrilled cry
that will one day be echoed when she discovers
semiotics, breath’s charged equilibration with air.
The truth: the least qualified person in the room
was tasked with making sure the mother
(her complete identity at the moment of birth,
like crystalline iodine, sublimating)
would survive. A placenta, tethered, undelivered,
is a death sentence, but only for one person.
The first person you never remember.
Daisy Bassen (@dgbassen) is a poet, novelist, and physician whose work has appeared in McSweeney’s and [PANK], among other journals. She’s a happily transplanted Rhode Islander.