The National Catholic Review
Maria Hummel

How can I get used to this
half-lit room, the tubes, the saw-like cry
of another mother’s child? The kiss

of silence, later, when nurses listen,
then drop their eyes, sleep upright.
How can I get used to this?

I don’t miss my innocence
but wish I could remember when I
was my mother’s child, kissed

tear by tear, back to happiness.
Red bags fill you a seventh time.
How did we get used to this?

I have another, uglier wish:
To rip out all the needles, the wires.
You’d be my child again for an instant.

The hall lights dim. A mother makes lists
as her baby screams. A mother lies
awake, weeping, because she is used to it.
A mother gives her child a kiss.

Maria Hummel, a Stegner fellow in poetry at Stanford University, is the author of Wilderness Run, her first novel. This poem was the first runner-up in this year’s Foley Poetry Contest.

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