Poem with No Children In It
Instead, the poem is full of competent trees,
sturdy and slow-growing. The trees live on a wide
clean lawn full of adults. All night, the adults grow
older without somersaulting or spinning. They grow
old while thinking about themselves. They sleep well
and stay out late, their nerves coiled neatly inside
their grown bodies. They don’t think about children
because children were never there to begin with.
The children were not killed or stolen. This is absence,
not loss. There is a world of difference: the distance
between habitable worlds. It is the space that is
unbearable. The poem is relieved not to have to live
in it. Instead, its heart ticks perfectly unfretfully
among the trees. The children who are not in the poem
do not cast shadows or spells to make themselves
appear. When they don’t walk through the poem, time
does not bend around them. They are not black holes.
There are already so many nots in this poem, it is already
so negatively charged. The field around the poem
is summoning children and shadows and singularities
from a busy land full of breathing and mass. My non-
children are pulling children away from their own
warm worlds. They will arrive before I can stop them.
When matter meets anti-matter, it annihilates into
something new. Light. Sound. Waves and waves
of something like water. The poem’s arms are so light
they are falling upward from the body. Why are you crying?
Copyright © 2020 by Claire Wahmanholm. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 25, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.
About this Poem
“This poem began as a thought experiment. Could I, just over the course of a poem, inhabit a parallel universe where I never had children? The poem tries its best for a while, but ends up betraying the project by the end. It was working against me even as I brought it into being. The ‘you’ is obviously me.”
Date Published: 2020-05-25
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/poem-no-children-it