"I have with me / all that I do not know"

Matthew Sumpter

-W. S. Merwin

Today I protest
                                my ignorance of vernix 

in knee crooks the umbilical cord a blood-woven rope the Be firm

the doctor says before I sever it with scissors
I upbraid myself 

for knowing for so long nothing of a body
filigreed in white mucus
and sleeping now under heat lamps
in a room where ugliness does not become

less ugly but more lovely in its ugliness

      I am shouting down the old distinctions 

holding up the old world and protesting it with the words we lack

for pre-color newborn irises the placenta
my wife delivers that opens like a prayer book

the feel of hair matted into curls with amnios
                                                            I protest my old self who lived
three decades without this moment 
language can't parse

no matter how often I bring down its ax

stay and I will tell you about skin halfway between
beetroots and cream I will tell you 

                                     about a mercifully suctioned throat 

and the cry that follows tell you a story owned by no one
except this cry and these people
child and mother

their voices like castaways the moment each one doesn't drown