NAMING THE CHILD
If life is sacred from the instant of conception
why doesn’t anybody name miscarriages?
Thousands of souls from day to day touch down,
but earth to some is like a stopover in Newark.
The unlucky deplane and have to live there,
while the rest, after a head count, take off again.
On each of those heads is a caul, a jellyfish-kiss
kippah, a contact lens that God drew off
his own iris with the tip of his ring finger
and set atop the fontanelle, a protective seal.
A name is a caul, a full-body scuba suit of call
you echolocate yourself with when you dive
into the world. I always had a thing
for Mozart’s middle name. With Amadeus
in your name, how could you not be a genius?
Love God!, the imperative, the standing order.
Love God! even if he bleeds your almost baby boy
out of the woman you love, the spigot turned,
the lifesmud gushing out. “Amadeus”
provoked a hard No all those years ago,
before we had our twins. This time around
when she and I got home from the hospital
cradling four pounds one ounce of namelessness
I sealed this almost newest sibling in a word
that meant what I was trying hard to do again,
calling our lost one, in secret, Love God!,
absurd though it was to name what never lived,
to order one who never learned to love
to love. The ears evolve at five weeks
in tandem with the heart’s awoken wink,
which is why music can do what it does to the pulse.
Did he know our voices? Both hands cupped
around my mouth, sealed to the baby bump,
I hallooed across the amniotic sea.
Did he know I loved his not-yet-presence
more than God’s not-quite-absence
because one meant hope in this life, for this life,
while the other meant hope in the next?
How is it possible to lose a thing
you never had? I had no wise advice.
I didn’t offer music to calm her sobs.
I was sobbing, too. It felt damned good. Why stop?
I didn’t tell her I had named the crimson bits
that life had chummed the waters of her with.
I didn’t call her baby, didn’t say
Love God. I didn’t mention God at all.
—from Rattle #69, Fall 2020
Amit Majmudar: “I have always loved the name Amadeus—maybe it started with the movie based on the Peter Shaffer play, which I saw as a child. The meaning and musicality of it (both its own musicality, and its connection with Mozart) charmed me. I did acquiesce, though, when my wife declined that name for either of our twin sons. The poem recounts the dashed hope of a third son, dwelling now forever in our imaginations. He might have born that as his first or perhaps his middle name. I have always wondered at the strange intermediate state of the miscarriage: We lose someone we never really ‘had,’ we mourn someone who had not yet taken on an independent life of his or her own. It requires a third word, a word that doesn’t exist in any language I know of—not ‘mourning,’ but a new vocabulary to express this strange kind of mourning for the almost-was. This poem tries to conjure that diction, which must necessarily be private, an idiolect; and for me that word will be Amadeus.” (web)