In Utero and After

Catherine Barnett

I just learned that the perforation of the mouth

happens at four weeks.

You here beside me, decanting spirits

into your own perforation,

did you know that?

I don’t drink much

but seem somehow to have ordered

a shot of amniotic fluid.

Everything’s a little milky in this strange light.

It’s too dark here to study the obituaries,

we can always do that later, in my bed,

where it’s warmer.

Do you mind my asking

if you might like to come home with me,

when this is over? Or better yet, before then?

I can feel my own mouth opening and closing

like the mouth of a fish,

about to ask what we’re doing here,

what kind of theater is this.

Not the local vet’s office

where just yesterday the surgeon said

my dog had no more lady parts

and handed them over in formaldehyde.

Formaldehyde! What a drink.

Mine too has been a brief fertile cameo,

and maybe yours has, too, a cameo

worth repeating.

Stay with me, won’t you, while the bartender

pours a little more of everything

into the decanter—

eros eros eros

brief, brief

Catherine Barnett is the author of four collections of poetry, most recently Solutions for the Problem of Bodies in Space. She is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and a 2022 Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, among other honors. She teaches at New York University.
Originally published:
March 4, 2024


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