After the Baby Died

Renee Emerson


Our floors have thick black spots, like spit-out gum,
where food was splattered or dropped. I mop up weeks
of neglect, my mother-in-law watching the children,
and, unaccustomed to it, only watching the children.

Then weeks afterward, where I paid as little attention
to the floors I walked on as to the people around me.
It was like swimming, a blurriness, eyes opened
underwater. Faces expected to say nothing.

My surviving children gasp hungrily for my love
and I’m heavy with it, all the worry and thought given
in sips to our dying baby. She took what she could.

She lay between us, her father and mother, eyes closed,
fading into a blue sleep. When a brain is very damaged
it doesn’t tell the heart to quit beating, not at first. It forgets
to be in charge, leaves such decisions to the heart itself,
who doesn’t know any better than to keep on going,

keep on going. The baby died. The thought trills again,
a shaking awake. I grip the handle tighter, like you would
a spade when you know the ground is very hard, maybe clay.





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