Friday’s Poem – A Birthmother’s Catechism (September 11, 1986)


This Friday’s poem, A Birthmother’s Catechism (September 11, 1986), comes from Carrie Etter’s collection Imagined Sons, A book of vivid, heartbreaking poems on the experience of giving up a child for adoption. Etter imagines the possible destinies for the child and presents us with various scenarios from the tragic to the absurd: a baker, a surfer, a rapist, even the olive in her Greek salad.  Dispersed among these narratives are the ‘Birthmother’s Catechisms’, These narratives provide numerous answers to persistent questions, How did you let him go? What is the anniversary of loss?

A Birthmother’s Catechism (September 11, 1986)

What is the anniversary of loss?

A national day of mourning

Really now, what is the anniversary of loss?

My mother and I watch TV well past her usual bedtime

What is the anniversary of loss?

Where the swan’s nest had been, widely scattered branches and some crumpled beer cans

What is the anniversary of loss?

Sometimes the melancholy arrives before the remembering

What is the anniversary of loss?

Some believe it is impossible to spend too much on the memorial

What is the anniversary of loss?

When I say sometimes the melancholy comes first, I know the body has its own memory

What is the anniversary of loss?

The wishbone snapped, and I clung to the smaller piece

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