Henrietta Goodman

After Birth

I was trying to type encyclopedia but kept typing envy

when I got to the part where my son

sprawled on the bed, asking what’s a placenta?

So we went to the envy envy encyclopedia,

so helpfully literal, so un-open to interpretation.

I remembered my own, or his, sliding out

numbly, how a nurse caught it in a bowl

and was going to take it away, but I strained

to sit up, to look. Building a placenta is hard work

the body does without the mind—temporary organ,

bound by the scope of its own necessity.

It was yucky, I tell my son, sticking out my tongue.

How big? he asks, and I say it was like a black brain—

an anti-brain, lumpy pillow with a white

amniotic fringe—


painless, painless, that predictable end.



“After Birth” first appeared in Cimarron Review, Issue 164, Summer 2008.