On Call

by Jack Miller

Last night I slept sitting up,
clothes on, knowing where my
shoes were, forgoing warmth and
the simple peace of recumbency.

Keys in hand; ringer on;
yes.  Dreamed of faster routes
like a new expectant father does
a week before the due date.

I’ve done all this before, will never
forget from the prenatal classes:
the most painful stage of labor
is rarely the birth itself, but rather

transition, the final dilation of
the breach within.  When it struck, I
swallowed her moans, bore the crush
of fear, took the weight and water.

Last night I slept sitting up
once more, replaying an echo of
the catch in your throat, even as
a ragged puncture widened raw

in the mess of your abraded heart;
on call with fingers to squeeze,
awaiting the prompt, healthy birth
of a bouncing baby epiphany.

I woke, stiff-necked, to the predawn
nag of towhees.  A dream of frost had
locked both knees; my phone was cold
and far better rested than I was.

Omens, all, auguring stillbirth.
You’ll be back with him by nightfall,
doggedly unmindful of the truth:
that the one who’d made that hole

slept lying down.

(first appeared in
Constellations vol. 1)