Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
The Vigil: A Pantoum

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Suddenly my children are ill.
Dragged out like old rags, dead dogs.
They are gray in the face, limp, shadowy.
And I am dazed from the night vigil.

Dragged out like old rags, dead dogs.
Fevered. Foodless. Even water resists them.
And I am dazed from the night vigil.
On their hospital beds they lie in their gowns.

Fevered. Foodless. Even water resists them.
So sick, as if they were again infants.
On their hospital beds they lie in their gowns.
I did not expect such illness now.

So sick, as if they were again infants.
(The older one is nearly my size.)
I did not expect such illness now.
And they resist my tender touch, strike it back.

(The older one is nearly my size.)
Even in their illness, private and proud.
And they resist my tender touch, strike it back.
What is a mother at such times, when a nurse will do?

Even in their illness, private and proud.
I hold my useless vigil for my sick children.
What is a mother at such times, when a nurse will do?
And I am tired on my plastic chair.

I hold my useless vigil for my sick children.
They are gray in the face, limp and shadowy.
And I am tired on my plastic chair.
Suddenly, my children are ill.

This poem previously appeared in Occam's Razor and the chapbook, All We Hungered For.



Cathy Barber’s poetry has been published in Up The River Journal, The Rio Grande Review, Pearl, and the Cancer Poetry Project 2. She is a past president of the board of California Poets in the Schools and a current member of the advisory board.  In addition to poetry, Ms. Barber writes a blog, Is It Just Me. Links to more of her poetry can be found on her website. She has a MFA from the Vermont College of Fine Arts.


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