In America Four Times a Day by Bobby Steve Baker

Alone at crib-side,
with the mini-mickey whoosh
ventilator-breath fed baby,
tend-me-tone multi-monitors,
the emitting diode light show,
these all fade.
I am alone with the baby,
motionless both of us,
except a rise and fall of chest,
her’s mechanical, mine catch and release.
Her’s scheduled to stop, when the committee votes.

Two years old, raped, shaken, burned,
“Here’s what happened.
She fell down the stairs."
That’s the story. That’s the case.

White coats round and round.
Everybody lawyers up.
Social services a-buzz.
We will now show this baby the best
that civilization has to offer.

Deal with it
Professionally. That is my task.
Visualize events,
unthinkable events,
in detail;
accurately enough to present
Tediously, I testify,
one more time, to one more jury,
ordinary men and women
bewildered by the horror,
desperately wanting to believe
there was an accident.
I will explain again,
that this particular constellation of injuries;
the swollen, hemorrhagic brain,
blood in every layer of the retina,
fingerprint bruises on the arms,
multiple fractures in varying stages of repair,
torn vagina, cigarette burns; these
do not happen by accident.

These are not the findings of a baby
who fell down the stairs.

You see, good people, the size
of a baby’s head compared to the strength
of the neck musculature,
when shaken violently by the shoulders
subjects the fragile brain to high velocities of deceleration…
And so it goes, so goes the accounting
of the mechanism of neural injury.
Ending with the diagnosis,
non-accidental trauma incompatible with life.

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