She came home after three weeks

My lusty first-born daughter

Leaving her sister in further care

To steady a nervous heart.

The weeks in nursery had been fraught:

Rows of babes in baskets keening day and night.

No peace - ever.

No touch of human hand beyond necessity.


The knot of tension in her wee neck

Was like a marble.

My heart hurt for her distress.

I held her, and fed her

And gently massaged her tender skull

To ease the tension from her tiny body.

But she did not respond well.


Infancy is fraught with peril

And premature birth even more so.

In spite of diligent care

She caught a nasty cold

So fast

Her heaving chest thick with phlegm.

And, as I held her, in great fear,

She threw up a glob of gristly mucus

So thick

It could not pass her windpipe

And she began to choke.

I grabbed her by the heels

And ran screaming for help

Out into the street

To my neighbours - to passing cars -



the sun was golden - the sky was blue -

the sea a silver sheet –

the soft air like perfume -

the whisper of air like perfume -


But nobody came.

No doors slamming – no running feet

No answering calls from a lifted sash -


Nothing but my shrieks of despair

In the silence.

I watched with horror

As my baby's face turned blue

And I cried to Heaven: 'Oh, God, help me!'


I slipped my forefinger into her tiny mouth

Deep down her wee throat.

I wrapped my nail into the glutinous mucus

Until I had tension

And I pulled gently – so gently – oh! so gently.

There was a slight squishy sound

And the faintest hiss of air.

Her eyelids fluttered and she gasped.

She sucked oxygen into her starving lungs

Shuddered through her whole small self

Like a leaf in light wind.

She opened her lovely dark eyes wide and clear.



And she fell asleep

Breathing quietly -

Fast asleep.

I just stood there, transfixed

Cradling her in my arms.


I don't know why no one answered my screams.

Perhaps the neighbourhood really was empty.

Perhaps not.

Maybe I frightened away any help

With my terrible need.

A mad woman!

I don't know.

But, on that day,

as I laid my child to rest in her bassinet


the sun was golden

the sky was blue - the sea a silver sheet -

the whisper of air like perfume -


◄ The Dive

Alpha male ►


<Deleted User> (13762)

Tue 20th Mar 2018 19:33

Left me breathless and desperate for the happy ending which eventually came. Wonderful poem Cynthia.

Also made me think about the efforts currently being made to halt the spread of diphtheria amongst the displaced Rohingya people in Bangladesh. And the growing number of people who are against vaccinations and spread spurious claims on social media. Sadly some of these childhood diseases are now on the increase again.


jennifer Malden

Tue 20th Mar 2018 16:35

Hello Cynthia,

Really liked the poem, the difference between the terrible fear of losing her, and not finding any help to save her, and the beautiful calm day.


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Graham Sherwood

Tue 20th Mar 2018 13:52

Very resonant CBT. Three of my eight grandchildren were premature, two just over a pound in weight, another was three pounds. Those first weeks are living hell.

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Wolfgar Miere

Tue 20th Mar 2018 12:08

Hi Cynthia,

I love that central verse, the calm in the eye of the storm where the world stands still amid a traumatic event.

Absolutely brilliant to my mind, I remember feeling euphoric at such times and it's a feeling that cannot be replicated anywhere.

I think it's a realization of helplessness and of our own vulnerability, and when we accept that there is a beautiful release of tension, the image of the child's release of breath compliments this idea perfectly, it's freeing.

This is a fantastic poem Cynthia, wonderful.


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