Still Birth & Stillbirth
by Barbara Crooker


In night's shelter, beneath the crust
Of frozen earth, sleeps my first
Child, first love, part of the dust
And rocks, first bed a grave.

Do you sleep, child of sightless eyes,
Did you once in crystal lining
See the reds of my womb glow as the skies,
My heartbeat your wind and thunder?

Is there comfort in the covered earth,
Warmth more than my thin arms
That waited, to hold you at birth,
Could ever give you?

In the frozen ground, maples bud
Drawing sap from the steely earth.
You lie immured, my still heart's blood,
A sculpture, perfect in your purity.

They brought me flowers: iris, a rose
Into the cavern of my room:
Starched sheets, drifted pillows
The year that spring forgot my heart.

Never having seen your face,
Your memory in me shines
Like the band of prismed space
That always sets the evening sky.

Previously published in Bereavement, 1989



She said, "Your daughters
are so beautiful.
One's a copper penny,
the other's a chestnut colt."
But what about
my first daughter,
at term,

Ten years later
and I sift the ground
for clues: what was
it I did?
Guilt is part
of my patchwork;
grief folds me up
like an envelope.

In the hospital,
the doctors turned
their eyes, told me
not to leave
my room.
But I heard them,
those babies in the night,
saw women from Lamaze
in the corridor.
They would be wheeled home
with blossoms & blankets,
while I bled the same,
tore the same,
and came home, alone.

women showered me
with stories
of babies lost:
to crib death,
the baby
that my best friend
gave up at fourteen.

They wouldn't let me hold her:
all I saw were glimpses:
a dark head,
a doll's foot,
skin like a bruise,
They wouldn't let me name her,
or bury her,
or mourn her.
Ten years later
and I do not have
the distance:
I carry her death
like an egg
in my pocket.

Previously published in Conections, 1981



Editor's Note:
Barbara Crooker has been widely published and has quickly become one of my favorite poets. She has written several collections including The White Poems (reviewed here at KotaPress in September 2002), The Lost Children, and Ordinary Life. Please check out Barbara's homepage and support her work in whatever ways you can!

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