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Since You've Been Away 
Written by: Renee Emerson 

I moved your crib, broke it down

like a ribcage. A desk there now,

a laptop, papers, all good sleepers,

through the night more often than me.


I sent the hospital the ng tubes

twisted up, marked for measure,

the hypafix tape I cut into heart shapes

to keep the tube to your cheek,


the doctor’s stethoscope I pressed

to your chest each feeding to hear

the soft gasp of air in your stomach

telling me placement was safe.


The professional scale, an altar

I laid you on each day. The feeding pump,

its Eeyore song a cry you couldn’t make

for yourself, for food you couldn’t swallow.


But the syringes used until the numbers

wore off, the medications given out in droplet

doses, the specialists numbers, direct lines—

all trash.


The ICU swaddlers snap-riddled for shot-access,

pin-pricked with blood, the closet of clothes

I washed and folded for when you came home

I boxed up for the basement labeled Never.


In my womb I have another baby, your birthmonth

is marked with busy, and still you never show.


I think about coming looking for you.

You were a good child; you ought to come

when called.



Renee Emerson is a homeschooling mom of seven and the author of Church Ladies (forthcoming from Fernwood Press, 2022), Threshing Floor (Jacar Press, 2016) and Keeping Me Still (Winter Goose Publishing, 2014). Her poetry has been published in Cumberland River Review, Windhover and Poetry South. She adjunct teaches online for Indiana Wesleyan University and blogs about poetry, grief and motherhood at


From Belmont Story Review Volume 7: Witness

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