This is what life does. It hits you like a stone
through the window in the form of a phone call
from your son-in-law who says your daughter’s
water has broken too early, and she’s in the hospital
in antenatal care. It flips you back to forty years ago,
when your first child was “born asleep,” as it read
on a gravestone in Ireland. But life also gives you a car
and a tank full of gas, so you can drive to the city
to see her again and again for three long weeks.
Your grandson turns this into a quest: Big Green Dinosaur.
Stone Jesus. The Bridge. Gold Dome. Ben Franklin’s Kite.
Lincoln on the Wall. White Greek Temple. The Swirl,
aka, the parking garage. And life gives you dollars
for the machine, which you gladly pay, hoping
you don’t need to save coins for Charon, not yet, not now.
Your daughter is miserable, and scared. But every day
is money in the bank. The babies in the NICU are
so small. Some of them don’t make it. Life shrugs.
No skin off his teeth. It’s all a coin toss. Then
one night, some switch is flipped, and whoosh,
here comes Caitlin Isabella, out in nine minutes.
It could have been a hundred years ago, when babies
this small didn’t survive. But it isn’t, it’s now,
and she’s claimed us with her dark-eyed stare.
Sometimes you put your coins in the slot,
and it’s cherries! cherries! cherries! Goodness
has nothing to do with it. Look at this little one
with her fleeting smile, the thinnest of commas.
Which could have been an ellipsis, but isn’t . . . .

Posted by kind permission of the poet.

Grief Trust
Barbara Crooker

Barbara Crooker

About the author

Barbara Crooker is an award-winning poet whose poems have been featured in various media outlets such as the BBC, in magazines, and in numerous anthologies. Her most recent books include Slow Wreckage (Grayson Books, 2024); Some Glad Morning (Pitt Poetry Series, University of Pittsburgh Press, 2019), The Book of Kells (Cascade Books, 2018, winner of the Best Poetry Book 2018 from Poetry by the Sea), and Les Fauves (C&R Press, 2017). For more information, visit