The Lost Baby Poem
by Lucille Clifton (1936-2010)
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 car we 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 seas let black men call me stranger
always for your never named sake
So thankfully there’s good poetry for that. This is totally cliché but the greatest thing about literature is that it can take you places you'll never go yourself. This isn’t just a standard account of an abortion, rather it’s fraught with the horror of a mother that knows she’s killed her child.
The lack of capitalization in the poem suggests to me the shame in the speaker's voice, and the first stanza is her own sad description of events. The second stanza is her justification for them, and the third is an apology, an excuse.
I like the “almost body” in the first stanza compared to “definite brothers and sisters” in the third. More speculatively I see the gaps in the middle of the lines as little pieces of her that are missing.
There’s so much I would miss out on if it weren’t for poetry...