Katie Kalisz

While My Son is Circumcised Down the Hall

I take my first shower after
delivering him. The water
scalds. Even though he is

out of me, my body is still
not mine. Water trickles down,
undoing lines of dried blood from

aching places I can’t bear to look.
Under the showerhead, I learn
my new shape, the water drawing over

smaller curves, awkward bulges,
a mining cavity and the mountain over it.
He is not alone. My husband insisted

on watching, a kind of self-inflicted
punishment for the choice we finally
made, as though he will be able to stop

the procedure if it gets too violent.
He will trace the scream, the jerk
we would otherwise imagine

for the next sleepless months, at every
cry over the long summer light. Right
now, he is being unbuttoned, undressed.

His small testicles are pink and don’t know
to be afraid. Needle and knife are soft.
Nothing gleams. Nothing harms.

He may look serene. When I am
dry he will return. I will
tend the dressing on his penis, fend off

infection and read this poem, a record of
how I sent him away to meet a separate pain
while I scoured myself, a sink, for our life ahead.


Katie Kalisz is a Professor in the English department at Grand Rapids Community College, where she teaches composition and creative writing.  She holds degrees from the University of Michigan, Loyola University of Chicago, and Queens University of Charlotte.  She lives in Michigan with her husband and their three children.  Her first book, Quiet Woman, is forthcoming from Main Street Rag.

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