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Jennifer L. Hollis

baby boy hollis

After the baby became a visible object

and not a just a fish in the depth of the ocean


the midwives gave me two impossible tasks:

They told me to nurse. And they asked for his name.


Within me, the boy was an unpainted boat, an aspen seed.

I have not named the bones of my wrist, my twin kidneys.  


He grew in silence. He told us nothing.

We called him the baby. We called him trouble.


The midwives lettered my name with a sharpie

on the plastic bassinet, on his plastic hospital bracelet.


Second wife, stepmother, I am mostly anonymous.

Finally one of these people had my name.  


The nurse handed us dog-eared books of baby names.

We could leave without one but there would be paperwork.


On the second day, my husband gave him one name.

My stepdaughter gave him a second. I said Yes.


I turned the words in my mouth like two cold marbles.

I whispered them and sang as we nursed.


Now he had his father’s name, like his brother and sister.

Now he was gone, one of the children and not one of me.

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Jennifer L. Hollis is a writer, music-thanatologist, and the author of “Music at the End of Life: Easing the Pain and Preparing the Passage,” (Praeger). Her articles and essays have appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, The Progressive, the Christian Century and other publications. She is at work on a book about what she has learned (and refuses to learn) from her work in end-of-life care. This is her first published poem. You can find her online at

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