“Water Child” by Lynne Knight

Lynne Knight


We didn’t talk much about the brother who died
while being born because a drug
the doctor gave my mother was too strong,
meant to kill pain she could still feel
decades later, though when asked
she said only The doctor felt terrible,
her way of setting limits to the unbearable.

If we did talk, we called him the first one
or the one born dead. Born dead! I’d stare
at my mother’s stomach, dreading something
bloodied & skinless would slide silently
to the floor. No one would say anything
as we wrapped it in old newspapers to hide
deep where the garbage man wouldn’t see.

In Japan, they call those who weren’t
born with their breath water children
because they live & die in the salty sac water.
My mother’s body held tears never shed.
They made a watery grave for the dead one.
We never talked about the times she felt him
try to rise out of it, desperate for breath.

from Rattle #53, Fall 2016

[download audio]


Lynne Knight: “I have a well-developed obsessive streak, one that clearly influences my writing habits. I go to my writing room at the same time every day with a cup of hot tea (Earl Grey). I start my computer; I start a poem (checking email first = killing the poem). Some days (rare days), instead of sinking into a clumsy exercise, the poem takes off. I think of those as the good days, but the truth is, any day I can write is a good day. Even when nothing much comes of it, I love doing it.” (link)

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