Amelia Williams


A soothing voice on NPR starts a new report
while outside, a “Lane Shift” sign
squeezes us uncomfortably close
to concrete barriers.
Traffic is heavy.  The radio story seeps in at the edges …
a baby who died shortly after birth.
A woman photographs the babies who die—
miscarried, stillborn,
or who live mere minutes or hours.

Next to the highway a factory lot
has rows and rows of cherry picker cranes—
like red and blue hatchlings
lifting their cages up hungrily on thin necks.
I notice light fading out of the sky
into a rim of orange on the horizon
while silos anchoring these Pennsylvania farms slide by.

The photographer offers these baby pictures
to the families whose lives slide suddenly into a strange horizon
of anchoring moments,
fading light, and the slow swiftness
of being squeezed up against a barrier
there in the maternity wing.

The voices on the radio
complete the story against a palette
of other sounds that vie for my attention: trucks growling
past our minivan windows, thrumming wind
in the roof rack, my boys in the back seat
discussing something quietly,
their music leaking
from MP3 headphones.