Triplet Muse: Three Poems by Timothy Kercher

The First Test

We’d been talking children for
longer than it takes to make
a few, like discussing poems,
the abstract yoking
of our flesh with names—for a boy:
Keats, Townes, or Orhan,
for a girl:
Belen, Ketevan, or Ani,
these names creating ghosts
of those not yet born, possibilities
haunting our possible futures,
all those countries we may live in,
all those trips we might just take,
all those books I hope to write,
our looming move
to Ukraine—

And when I find on the sink
a conspicuously placed pregnancy test
showing two pink lines

pointing not to possibilities
but to a reality already set in stone
on the cave walls of your uterus—

a child—that sperm and egg
evolution to human in nine months,
those months becoming actual
months, our universe growing
outward on the cells inside you,

our future rising on the genes
we‘ve joined, and as I try to get
my head around this, I know
our cells are typing out
the DNA, ready or not,
a poem our lives are writing.

My Brothers’ Egg
You can’t birth triplets
without some divinity.
You can’t be a triplet

without being one third
a god. What other explanation
for cellular complication?

The unspoken command
that shatters one life into three
genetic clones that know

each other while developing
differently. Three with one blueprint
but separate footprints

that populate the ground behind them,
separate fingerprints that populate
everything they touch,

proof that each is his own even
as they share a face, a red head
of hair, a physiology

that can’t hide its similarities—
I say my mother and father
are one egg, one sperm—

they say their mother and father
are one egg, one sperm,
but, O, what force in the sperm,

O, how fragile the egg.

Visit Number Two

I.
Two heartbeats in three gestations—
not the first heartbeats but the first
heartbeats we hear; silence
from the third, our second ultrasound,
the first one confirming
three. A disjointing
of our emotions—to hear two hearts
for the first time, our children! But then
no third. The doctor says, Good!
Normal; you’re not the right constitution
for three, and in Georgia a third is rare
and usually terminated. But I have three
brothers born in America to a mother smaller
than my wife. And in my mind
I’m listening to my brother Shawn’s heart,
Kelly’s, but Joey’s is silent—
a recurring dream now playing
out on this screen—the wand probing
not my wife, but my greatest fear—
our three children of ten days
have been diminished:
Baby A, Baby B, Baby Nobody—

II.
Driving away, we are happy
to know two are healthy, knowing
all along this was possible. I repeat
the word, “twins” over and over,
trying to turn off the word “triplets”
recurring since I was ten:

more manageable, more than
manageable, life-changing, but
not as much. Two people, two babies;
lap symmetry, breast symmetry.

III.
My wife says she’s read sometimes
this happens. The vanishing. But
our third is still there. Had grown
the last ten days. Maybe it’s shy,
behind in development, not yet
enough heart
to knock on life’s door—

IV.
I think of lost sheep, the one
that wanders away and will not
bleat. To go looking,
to follow its stillness, to hope—

Third Visit

This time, just anger.
She didn’t even check,
said the third is on the cervix,
sketched it
not alive, said it
would be reabsorbed.

I saw three on the screen,
but heard the two hearts, wanted
to hear the silence of the third,
just wanted to hear
the silence if
it has become a silence;
she didn’t even listen.

Timothy Kercher’s manuscript “Nobody’s Odyssey” was recently selected as a finalist for the John Ciardi Prize for Poetry; his translation of Besik Kharanauli’s long poem, “The Lame Doll,” is set to be published in the Republic of Georgia early next year. Kercher’s poetry and translations have appeared or are forthcoming in The Atlanta Review, The Dirty Goat, Poetry International Journal, The Evansville Review, Upstreet, Guernica, The Minnesota Review and others.

Please check out our interview with poet Timothy Kercher, “Triplets and Translation in the Republic of Georgia with Poet Timothy Kercher.”

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