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Water Children

Ellen S. Jaffe
From:   No Choice but to Trust: The 1999 Sandburg-Livesay Award. Ed. Raymond Souster. Pittsburgh, PA: UnMon [Unfinished Monument] America, 2000. Originally printed in Contemporary Verse 2 22.1 (Summer 1999).


(Note: Buddhist women may sometimes have special prayers and shrines for babies who were aborted, whom they call "water children.")

I

Water child, I bring you
chrysanthemums, ripe pears,
coloured ribbons to tie up my prayers
You live, still, floating in some sunless sea
out of reach           out of reach
I call you by name, but you
are too far away
and you have not yet learned
how to hear.

II

I am the water child
I am a lump of sugar dissolved in a bowl of green tea
next to these white chrysanthemums and red ribbons
I am a small pool, with one goldfish swimming in circles.
I am a humming-birdís tongue, double-dipped in nectar.
          Do not be sad
          I am not angry at you
          See -- I will kiss you there, there
          Nectar-wet kisses so another child
          Can begin
My kiss is a tiny moth,
a mayfly that lives only one day.
Someday, you will forget me
but not yet, not now
          I need to water the white chrysanthemums
          I need the red ribbon connecting us, heart to heart
          as it did once
          while I lay sleeping underwater inside your skin.


III

I will sing you a lullaby,
braid the prayer-ribbons, red and green,
around this pear.
You could be the child inside the peach-pit
who accomplishes great deeds,
kills the raging monsters causing havoc
          in the kingdom of my dreams.
Timimoto, Tom Thumb, Thumbelina
          my bushel of tears
          my water child.




Ellen S. Jaffe's works copyright © to the author.


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