Kathleen Nalley


Around 11:30 p.m., after the Ringling Brothers Circus, a newborn was found by a janitor in the toilet at the

Bilo Center in Greenville, S.C.


Maybe the plunge from one body
of water into another didn’t disturb
you the way we think, that you emerged
quickly, swam even, by instinct, from one
bloody bowl into another, that the only thing
you noticed was the change of temperature —
raging red heat to clear chemical cold. Somehow,
you survived, kept your head up
where your mother had perched you
on top of the toilet seat, somehow knowing
not to let yourself submerge.
Baby John Doe they called you, placed
you, once the janitor blew life
back into your lungs, in a hospital incubator,
tubes feeding nutrients through your nose
to sustain you. Maybe you’ll never know how
all this started. You’ll never
question how you entered this world:
your mother, a K-Mart customer service
rep, your father, once unknown, now coming
forward to give you a name: Water Bearer,
Aquarius, and you will rise like a tidal wave
onto the earth: first, subsiding
and receding, the undercurrent pulling
you back, then, second, furious.