What We Know About Babies | Christopher Brunt


When the baby dreams of flying, the dog sleeping next to it also dreams of flying.

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The baby’s fussiness is not what it seems. He conducts a Byzantine choir in his mind. They are making numerous, unforgivable mistakes.

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Babies are born knowing already the cardinal directions: to the north and west is Mother. To the east and south and to the Holy Land is Mother. To the prophet’s cave, to the upper reach where the basalt flows and cools, to the dog star sliding in the liquid sky, and the beveled tip of every drop of rain, and even the warm root of the lote tree in Paradise, she is.

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The original baby never ate, never slept, never cried or executed bodily functions of any kind, and all subsequent babies persevere in the august shadow of this baby. That is why these activities are so fraught with effort, fear, and we must say it, rage. How sad this is, their merciless self-appraisal against an impossible standard.

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All babies are born knowing some rudimentary Arabic, a little Greek. What they do not know is how when speaking one must slash one’s meaning into pieces, an infinite rug divvied up for each solitary believer.

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Some babies are assigned to cruel mothers, mothers who are mad, mothers who have drunk moonshine and left them out in the drowning rain. These babies do not pull rank or pass judgment, their wails are still experiments, a sounding-out to the unseen, unmanned borders of our city.

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The more arduous the baby’s journey into this realm of existence, the harder they must sleep, for it is only when asleep that they perform the necessary labor of forgetting the terrible faces of God.

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Every baby who was ever born was born immortal. The dying is done by us.




Christopher Brunt’s recent work appears in Ploughshares, Poets.org, Meridian, Copper Nickel, the Cincinnati Review, and other magazines. His fiction has been selected as a Distinguished Story by Best American Short Stories and will soon be featured on the MTA Subway Library in New York City. He is an Assistant Professor of English at Rhodes College in Memphis, where he teaches literature and creative writing. His MFA is from Syracuse University and he received a PhD in English from the University of Southern Mississippi.