An email from a friend. Their newborn son
can’t form connective tissue,
can’t breathe on his own, will pass away
in the NICU when they can bear to let him.
In the pictures, I see his clean, thick hair.
He wears a wristband like a teenager stepping out
of a concert he’ll re-enter after this brief hello.
Our Rosalie is one month old,
a dark starfish in the crib’s bottom,
her temporary sleep gathering
toward waking like a held breath.
I let my phone go dark.
Moonlight emerges on the comforter,
sliced by the window screen
into a thousand pale shards I touch
the way I touch my daughter’s voice,
the way you touch any fragile thing
that could be there or not.
Matthew Sumpter is the author of the poetry collection Public Land (University of Tampa Press, 2018), which won the Anita Claire Scharf Award. His poems have also been awarded the Crab Orchard Review Special Issues Feature Award, as well as the Zocalo Public Square Poetry Prize. Other individual poems have appeared in The New Yorker, The New Republic, AGNI, Best New Poets, and Poetry Daily. His scholarship on writing pedagogy has appeared in College English, and his creative prose has appeared in Glimmer Train and Pithead Chapel. A graduate of the Ohio State MFA program and the Binghamton University PhD program in creative writing, he is currently Visiting Assistant Professor of English at Tulane University.