'All week, I ran a fever that wouldn't break'
Caitlin Doyle, who lives in Ohio, writes haunting, memorable poetry about the familiar and the strange. Her poetry is a fine example of what I call strategic artistry, as if her words have been carefully held back until they burst into light at just the right moment. This sonnet, in which a young girl awakens to a world of new discoveries, originally appeared in The New Criterion.
by Caitlin Doyle
'A cradle thief,' my mother called the man
we'd see in shops, cafes, parks, even church,
with 'that poor girl' beside him. Hand in hand,
they'd walk as if they didn't feel the scorch
of people's stares. The day we saw him press
his lips to hers, my mother blocked my eyes
as if his mouth (I longed for my first kiss)
against her mouth was smothering her cries.
All week, I ran a fever that wouldn't break.
'A cradle thief' - a voice I only half
knew as my own surprised me in the dark,
my sick-bed wet with shivers. 'A cradle thief,'
I said again, as if the words could will
my window broken, footprint on the sill.
American Life in Poetry is made possible by the Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2017 by Caitlin Doyle, 'Cradle Thief', from The New Criterion (Vol. 35, no. 10, 2017). Poem reprinted by permission of Caitlin Doyle and the publisher. Introduction copyright ©2019 by the Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-06.