I was her blurred object,
her cradle, tubes clipped to my shirt
so careful. I was a background noise
and the quiz at the end of rounds,
every question a banner over me
of ignorance. I couldn’t draw a heart
if I tried, I tried, I tried. I left
at night sometimes and lay in my bed
by her empty crib. While in the city
a nurse I’ve never met fed her
morphine. The myth is that the wise
woman can save her little ones
from being dashed upon the rocks.
The myth is a handwritten recipe card,
a row of pictures in the basement,
each set against the other, documented
success—I kept the kids alive today.
I cannot save a single one.
When the surgeon comes,
I’m asked to leave the room.
by Renee Emerson, first appeared in Up the Staircase
Editor’s Note: This poem shows the agony of caring for a gravely ill child via skillful repetition (line 7) and difficult, clear imagery.