“Safe Haven” by Jill Bergkamp

Jill Bergkamp


In 1999, Texas became the first state
to adopt a Safe Haven law, which
decriminalized the act of abandoning
unwanted infants and children.

One mother drove from Michigan, past
open prairie, scattered trees, acreage
where quail bones curled under the feet

of snowshoe hares. She drove past
forests, lakes where massasauga snakes
coiled in hibernation, drove until she saw

tall grass and prairie, striped squirrels,
until mourning doves and swallows signaled
the destination. Some mothers said they’d be

right back, and left their children
with sandwiches and carrot sticks.
Some kids were left with nothing as the mothers

sped away. A few children never opened
the hospital doors, instead they ran back
to chase after tail lights. At the highway

entrance one mother cried.
Her jaw opened wide
and all the animals tore out.

from Rattle #36, Winter 2011

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