A poem by Ellen Bryant Voigt


by Albert Anker, “Young Mother Contemplating her Sleeping Child in Candlelight

There is one grief worse than any other.

When your small feverish throat clogged, and quit
I knelt beside the chair on the green rug
and shook you and shook you,
but the only sound was mine shouting you back,
the delicate curls at your temples,
the blue wool blanket,
your face blue,
your jaw clamped against remedy—

how could I put a knife to that white neck?
With you in my lap,
my hands fluttering like flags,
I bend instead over your dead weight
to administer a kiss so urgent, so ruthless,
pumping breath into your stilled body,
counting out the rhythm for how long until
the second birth, the second cry
oh Jesus that sudden noisy musical inhalation
that leaves me stunned
by your survival.

“Daughter” by Ellen Bryant Voigt from The Forces of Plenty. © W.W. Norton & Company, 1983. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

courtesy of Writer’s Almanac