Poems & Essays

17 Oct

What Matters

General/Column 2 Responses

Say it was September 4th, not the 4th of July, a day of celebration
when fireworks burst—crayon-colored—throughout the sky.
Say you weren’t born two month’s early that hot-as-fire morning.
Say the hospital doctor had oxygen ready for you to breathe
and your twin sister had lived.
Say you learned to suckle and chew, and swallow as easily
as a new sparrow opens its tiny beak for the pinkest worm.
Say you learned to turn over, sit up and crawl, stand, walk and run.
That you learned to talk and sing—to read and write.

Say you stayed small enough so I could carry you forever
like a weightless bouquet of gentle baby’s breath.
Say I didn’t have to learn a hundred nursey songs to keep myself awake.
Say your father didn’t vanish and deny he had a daughter.
Say most people didn’t hold their heads in their hands
or shake them sympathetically like rag mops.
Say the doctors were being kind when they told me to place you and forget.
And then, say—and really mean—that it doesn’t matter.

Because you changed me as profoundly as an atom must
to become an ion if it wants to send that positive electrical charge.
Because my shredded heart would not have grown scar tissue
thick as tree bark and kept splitting, sending extra branches
to reach others past the strength that grounded me.
Because I would not have known the salt-worth of relentless, quaking love.
Because you answer questions in that dark open space of matter
where dreams and miracles freely trade secrets.

After Ada Limon’s The Conditional


Although Bernadine Lortis has been writing secretly and sporadically for years, she began submitting in June and had a Creative Nonfiction piece published in July Motherhood issue of Stirring: A Literary Collection and has a poem accepted for the Autumn Equinox issue of Mused in Bella Online. She lives in St. Paul, MN with her husband.

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Would you like to join the discussion? Feel free to contribute!

  1. Karen (Wales)

    October 20, 2016 at 8:46 am

    What a beautiful, wonderfully honed poem.

  2. Janette (Canada)

    November 9, 2016 at 9:04 pm

    Succinct. Lyrical. Powerful. Gets me in the gut.


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