There is a metaphor I often use in poetry workshops that has to do with the emotional content of a poem. If you hold your hand over a poem, it’s as if certain parts can be said to give off heat. There are all kinds of ways that a poem can be said to generate heat, but the primary one is through what a speaker tells us and the intimacy with which a poem’s truth is told.

This week’s poem gives off heat, particularly in its last stanza. It is by Catherine Anderson of Portland, and it’s for all of the mothers out there (and all of the other humans who know those mothers) who have lost a baby.

On Mother’s Day, Catherine’s poem reminds us that today is about celebrating all of the mothers among us, including those raising adopted children and those who have lost a child.


By Catherine Anderson

The rubbery remains of this fuzzy


chick on a yellow balloon

with a wilted cherry red ribbon

that’s still somehow holding it’s curl.

This deflated promise

in my shivering hands, in early March on the coast of Maine.

I am celebrating my birthday, and she is not.


She would have been seven.

On this cove is where I first said good-bye

before the surgery

when my body was a walking casket,

her little death inside me.

A message on the answering machine


reported the results of the tissue analysis

from the pathologist at the lab:

the specimen was a normally developing female.

While hemorrhaging in bed alone,

I hit delete on my phone

erasing any and all evidence of my daughter,


who for nearly three months lived within and not without me.

Did she slowly just drift away?

On one uneventful empty afternoon

like a wave receding: this wave? This one. This one?

On the ocean a balloon lands softly and waits.

Gibson Fay-LeBlanc is Portland’s poet laureate. This column is produced in collaboration with the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. Poem copyright © 2016 Catherine Anderson. It appears here by permission of the author.

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