Tuesday Poem: “the lost baby poem” by Lucille Clifton

the lost baby poem

the time i dropped your almost body down
down to meet the waters under the city
and run one with the sewage to the sea
what did i know about waters rushing back
what did i know about drowning
or being drowned

you would have been born into winter
in the year of the disconnected gas
and no carxxxxwe would have made the thin
walk over genesee hill into the canada wind
to watch you slip like ice into strangers’ hands
you would have fallen naked as snow into winter
if you were here i could tell you these
and some other things

if i am ever less than a mountain
for your definite brothers and sisters
let the rivers pour over my head
let the sea take me for a spiller
of seasxxxxxlet black men call me stranger
alwaysxxxxxfor your never named sake

This poem by Lucille Clifton is from ‘good woman: poems and a memoir, 1969-1980′ (copyright © 1987 by Lucille Clifton). I found it on the poetryfoundation.org website where you can also find out information about Lucille Clifton (in short: award winning African American writer and educator with an unadorned, pared back style who wrote about urban family life, social upheaval, and womanhood).

I’ll admit it, I was looking for poems about babies. In a few weeks time I will be giving CPR to my PhD, and for the rest of the year I am going to concentrate on the creative part of my doctorate. Let’s face it, my baby addled brain has no chance of penetrating academic articles. Because I’ve spent the last few months working my new all-day-and-night job as mummy, I am sure that experience will come out in my poems. And I think it should.

What I’m afraid of is writing bad baby poetry. By that I mean sentimental, apple-of-my-eye poetry. I know I’m in danger. I wanted to see how other people managed to write about parenthood, and that is where I found Clifton’s poem. It reminded mw that parenthood encompasses a wide range of emotions and experiences, and is not only about love. For me, the calm and factual way Clifton talks about losing her baby is where the heartbreak hides. You can feel her grief, and her resolve for her future children.

Anyway, wish me luck. For other Tuesday Poems check out the hub.


2 thoughts on “Tuesday Poem: “the lost baby poem” by Lucille Clifton

  1. I suspect you will find that your words hold their own weight, and because of that they will withstand all measure of sentimentality. It’s not something to fear. I’m happy to wish you luck, but as you write I hope you discover that you don’t need it.

    Looking forward to reading the results.

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