At the foot of the download anchored
                                   the usual flotsam of ads,

this link: to who for
                                             a fraction
                                   of the retail price can

solve my underground drainage woes, which
                                             tells me
                                   the software has finally

run amok. Because the article, you see,
                                   the rescue from a sewage

pipe of Baby 59, five pounds,
                                             placenta still
                                   attached, in Zhejiang

Province, where officials even as I read
                                             are debating
                                   the merits of throwing

the mother in jail. Communal
                                             toilet. Father
                                   nowhere to be found.

The gods in their mercy once
                                             could turn
                                   a frightened girl to

water or a shamed one to a tree,
                                             but they
                                   no longer seem

to take our troubles much
                                             to heart.
                                   And so the men with

hacksaws do their gentle best—consider
                                             the infant
                                   shoulders, consider the lids—

and this one child among millions,
                                   a second time to what

we still call breathable air, survives
                                             to pull
                                   the chords of sentiment

and commerce.
                                             Don’t make the poem
                                   too sad, says Megan,

thinking at first (we both of us
                                             think) the child
                                   must be a girl or otherwise

damaged, thus (this part she doesn’t
                                             say) like her.
                                   Who is the ground

of all I hope and fear for in the world.
                                             Who’ll buy?
                                   Or as the hawkers

on the pavement used to put it, What
                                             d’you lack?
                                   The download comes with

pictures too. Of workmen, wrenches,
                                             bits of shattered
                                   PVC, and one for whom

the whole of it—commotion, cameras,
                                             IV needle in the scalp—
                                   is not more strange

than ordinary daylight.
                                             Welcome, Number
                                   59. Here’s milk

from a bottle and here’s a nearly
                                             human hand.


From Prodigal: New and Selected Poems, 1976-2014 (Mariner Books, 2015). Copyright © 2015 by Linda Gregerson. Used with permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.