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     Colm O’Shea


Our daughter exploded into the moment: a cork

bursting from the bottle of her mother.

As we swaddled her, and swooned,

falling head over heels into new life,  

a second message—slower, more patient

—delivered itself from some sunken place.


Placenta. It slipped into a plastic basin,

silent as stillbirth in a stew

of blood and amniotic fluid. Alien.   

A grotesque tree snaked up its back:

roots that had nourished us from rich soil.


Placenta. Latin for flat cake.

We declined to eat it.

Swallowed up in a bio-haz bag,

a threat to life, it was ready for the flames.

Let them burn the roots, I thought,

I’m here for the flower.


That night I saw, stemming from the Abyss,

unsinging and unsung, an endless sea,

purple with perpetual broods of jellyfish

all rising in long coils to the light above,

parachutes pulsing upward,

autonomous dreams.

Colm O'Shea teaches essay writing at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts. The first thing he ever wrote for pleasure was a poem. His poetry has been anthologized in "Voice Recognition: 21 Poets for the 21st Century" (Bloodaxe Books), his spec-fic novel Claiming De Wayke is available from Crossroads Press, and his study on Buddhist metaphysics, schizophrenia and modernism, James Joyce's Mandala, is available from Routledge. Visit him at

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