the baby died and weeks-worn clothes languish
on the floor, days of dishes in the sink.
My ragged husband tries, but can’t get near.
He summons up, A short life is life.
As if five syllables could heal.
I despise his words and turn my back.
Weeks and friends shy away after casseroles
and cakes and awkward sympathy.
Calls stop and cards stack unopened in the trash.
My body hugs the indent on our bed.
We kept him warm and prayed.
Thirty days since and I cannot bear the sadness
I’ve become. But then his sister’s voice –
three years old, brave – breaks the dark, startles me.
Pancakes, Mama. Please? As if my hands could find a way.
She doesn’t know I cannot stand her father’s eyes
or mop a floor or dust the last photograph.
Or how I scream, A mother never loses loss,
when no one wants to hear. Yet I claw my way
across unwashed sheets, past pillows pounded
down to half their size. Perhaps today one thing,
I surprise myself. Today. Perhaps. One.
This is a reprint of work originally published in The Delmarva Review.
Carolyn Martin is blissfully retired in Clackamas, Oregon, where she gardens, writes, and plays with creative friends. Her poems have appeared in journals throughout the US and UK, and her second collection, The Way a Woman Knows, was released by The Poetry Box, Portland, OR, in February 2015. Since the only poem she wrote in high school was red-penciled “extremely maudlin,” she’s still amazed she continues to write.