In the realm where infants, like comets, show up in flames, igniting
as soon as they make contact with the air, all of the delivery room
cribs are packed with sand to quench the new arrivals.
Immediately upon extinguishment, the babies begin to wail—not
in pain, for they are unmarred, but as if in lamentation over their
Once in a while, before plunging a newborn into its grainy bath,
the midwife lingers for a moment to gaze at the golden tongues
that spin across the child’s skin as though a hundred lionesses were
licking a cub to its first breath.
It is rumored that these delayed-bath babies grow up to be
uncommonly fearless and inquisitive, but because no midwife will
admit to having committed an act of willful malpractice, the
correlation remains forever unproven in this land of pyrophoric
Claire Bateman’s most recent poetry collection, Scape, is forthcoming from
New Issues Poetry & Prose in Fall 2016.