J. F. Quackenbush
TO A CHILD
for Stella March Faiello
I hope that you are beautiful
and that your eyes are green
and your hair is blonde.
I hope that you are loved
and cared for. I hope your
life as you come into it
is not a field of broken things.
I hope that you are smart
and funny, and a goddess of words
that will spill from your lips
in this language
that is the only lover I have left.
I hope that the sadness
this awfulness now that surrounds
your conception does not print
itself in your face so that you
are born hating the way only
those of us like you and I
who are children of injustice
I hope your father is a good man
and he manages to love your mother
like I did, unworthy of it as she is.
I hope that in another few decades
you are not sitting drunk and numb
dead inside and staring down at your
typing fingers from 10,000 feet above yourself
writing words like these on an empty page.
To the child I will never know,
I might have loved you; you could have
been mine. If you were a boy, your
name would be Fyodor.
I like to think I would have named you Chloe.
If you hear her say anything about me
see my name on the spine of a book
find an old letter that I’ve signed
or poem that I’ve written, don’t ask her
who I am. Just wait.
A time will come when she will look
at you, into your red rimmed eyes
after your heart has been broken
by a boy who reminds her of herself.
And when she does, your eyes, just
a little like mine, will make her
think of me, and she’ll crumble
a little at the memory of how she
came to have you and all the love
that came into the world in your
tiny infant fingers reaching for
That’s how you will know me,
in the reflection in her eyes
watching the ghost of me
drown quietly in your tears.
—from Rattle #32, Winter 2009