They brought you to me clean
and swaddled, nestled you
in the mantle of my arms like a pearl,
the tide of your hunger so fierce,
so physical, all my other babies
knew in that instant their luck
had run out. No statues for them
in the temple yard, no red bibs
for the afterlife, no diminutive
names. The dead are here
to tend to the living, they know
when it’s time to go.
I had no need to watch them leave,
so long had the memory of each
been anchored behind my eyes,
each anniversary, each would-be
age and likely height.
I suppose they waved goodbye
like real children might,
the watery gloves of their hands
rising then falling in the slow-motion
swell, their bodies pale
like driftwood pulled back to the sea.