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Marcia B. Loughran


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The mother laid out three outfits.
There wasn’t a lot of time.

The mother laid out three outfits;
the family wanted a picture.

They’d never gotten a picture,
what with the congenital heart defect,
the four days at home in the first year of life,
the respirator.

The mother laid out three outfits.
I set up the tripod,
two umbrellas rigged up on stands in the middle of everything
to light the family,

and prayed they’d go off like they're supposed to;
otherwise the pictures would have been utter blackness
with shadow figure blurs.

Not in the photo:
doctors, nurse, aide, machines, hospital bed, wires, tubes.

In the photo:
big brother (six), and the baby,

a big fat roly-poly bruiser
in an oxygen mask,
who never actually opened his eyes.

Any activity distressed
the breathing.
They put on all of the outfits,
dressing the baby in layers.

The onesie with little cars. I got the shot,
the nurse cut it off with hospital scissors.
Plaid shorts, matching top with a turtle on it.
The nurse cut it off.
The last outfit said Birthday Boy

the nurse stepped into the frame
and whispered something to the mother,
I kept taking pictures.
The baby died fifteen minutes after I left the room.

Look, look:
here is the group shot,
here is the mother,
look at the brother,
here is the father
holding the baby by a window,
black and white.

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