Brendan Todt

When You Feel It

“I knew it,” the father says, though he is not yet technically a father. And may not now become one. “This is the time it happens. Three weeks left. I knew when I laid my hands on her.” 

“Excuse me, I am not a cow,” she says. She tries to make the pair of them laugh, but she can’t. 

“Nothing you can do,” the doctor says, which doesn’t sound any good coming from a doctor. Though of course the doctor is not speaking about himself. 

“Sometimes they get in a real bad way, and you have to cut,” the man says. “Reach in there and pull ’em out.” 

“With any luck, we can avoid that,” the doctor says. 

The epidural has made the woman a guest in her own body. She has legs, but she cannot feel them. She touches them, almost laughs at their absence. Up her legs to her belly, inside of which she also cannot feel. 

“Sometimes put the chains around ’em,” the man says. 

“My goodness,” the doctor says. 

“Takes a whole grown man to pull,” the man says. 

“Or woman,” she says. 

“Oh, sure,” he says. “Or woman.” He stands next to her head and looks at her. “She’s done a ton of them already,” he says. “A regular metric ton. A regular pro, this one.” 

The doctor has put on the gloves, and the woman feels insignificant when she sees how little they cover of his old-man arm. Her gloves and her husband’s gloves, when they are birthing calves, come well up past the elbow. Though she has spent months saying she’s enormous, she now thinks her body is a pitifully frail and minuscule thing. It is no wonder it has failed her. 

The doctor tells her they missed one. He says the epidural was too good. He says all women should be so lucky. Then he stops. And looks at his hands. Which cannot protect him. Then he says they’ll wait a little bit. And when she feels it again, she should push. 

We Do Not Love Each Other Exactly

You are not beautiful, exactly.
You are beautiful, inexactly.
—Marvin Bell, “To Dorothy”

We were fighting about the guy she fucked when she clarified to say she didn’t fuck him exactly. This was after we’d had the children but before the renovation was done. I sat down against a piece of wall because there was nothing in the whole bottom floor of the house except the stacked boxes where we thought we wanted the island to be. Because that’s better, I said. The floor wasn’t there either. Just the subfloor, which was new, because the old one had gone bad in so many places it didn’t make sense fixing only here and there. I don’t remember if the children were sleeping through the night then. I hope they were. They seemed to be able to nap through the carpenters hacking their way through everything. But then many things seem to be one thing and are actually, if not exactly, another. When the backsplash arrived, it was not the shade of blue we had ordered. But like so many things, we have chosen to live with it. 

Brendan Todt lives in Sioux City, Iowa. His poem “Because the Living May Be Worth Something, Too” was selected as a Best of the Net nominee by Ekphrastic Review. He also won the 2021 Juxtaprose poetry prize and teaches creative writing at Morningside University.