Nebraska Center for Writers

by Lydia Cooper

I GASP AND WAKE UP, damp with sweat, to a dim gray dawn and the gentle murmur of a late autumn drizzle. Rain crawls in shifting patterns across the windopane as I wait for my pulse to slow. It's always like this when I dream about my brother's afterbirth: panic, something between lust and teror.
I was almost eleven when he was born. My older brother and I were waiting in the hallway. My mother lay exhausted on crinkly white sheets, and she turned her head to the doorway where the nurse stood like a guard. You can come in, come look, the nurse said, and I went into the room. I looked down. A lucent, pulsing cord of blue and gray sprouted from the baby's taut belly. The doctor clipped the cord and lifted the heavy sac of placenta into a stainless steel surgical bowl, a blood-dark jellied anemone. He saw me watching and he raised his eyebrows a little, and then he winked, as if he could tell how much I loved the smell of the rich, metallic blood. But what I loved best was the neat snick of the scissor blades. It was seventeen years ago today, but I can still hear the sound of the scissors like an ache in my molars. That sound, that smell.

Reprinted with permission
from My Second Death
Copyright © 2013
by Lydia Cooper
Tyrus Books

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Nebraska Center for Writers