Friday Poem – A Birthmother’s Catechism


This Friday’s poem, A Birthmothers Catechism, comes from Carrie Etter’s collection Imagined Sons. The giving up of a first-born son for adoption is the central story, and the way the ramifications of this act echo down the years through the protagonist’s life is movingly embodied. The poems describe various scenes in which the son is ‘encountered’. They are sometimes straight-forwardly realistic, almost like film clips; then there are dream slices full of surreal images; brief comedies or tragedies; and short lyrical laments. This is one of those brave, rare and heartfelt books that will stay with the reader. It has both a compelling urgency and a passionate purpose.

A Birthmother’s Catechism

What do you want?

After twenty hours on trains, I stand on the platform
and stare at I know not what

What do you want?

Rub the leaves between your fingers and smell a ripe lemon

What do you want?

When a stranger compares her mortgage to signing away
her firstborn, I nod and cannot speak

What do you want?

The hangman sold the rope by the inch as a panacea

What do you want?

Houndstooth daisies, in a small, extended fist

Get Carrie Etter’s Imagined Sons here

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