philtrum: the vertical groove on the median line of the upper lip, formed during embryonic development; sometimes referred to as ‘cupid’s bow’; while normally grooved, in fetal alcohol syndrome, it is flattened; a ‘short philtrum’ (a shorter than usual space between the nose and upper lip) is a genetic condition that may be associated with several abnormal medical conditions.
Referred to in the Talmud, the philtrum is a mark made by an angel, who taps the fetus on the lip prior to birth. Folklore further interprets this action as causing the baby to forget wisdom known in the womb.
The riddle vanished somewhere before the beginning,
in cavernous seas or scorched desert dust.
She emerged beneath the caul, pierced with all the markings
on her tiny body, the too-small cranium, the fine tremors,
and that flat philtrum, which the doctors dubbed a dead giveaway.
Yes, during long months of pregnancy, at home with nothing to do,
the mother drank vodka or gin or whatever she could buy cheap
at the liquor store.
But they really knew nothing of this sign, how she would survive
or where her fingers had been. How touched she was. Her secret
was deeper and unbroken.