‘My Daughter’s Body’ was written by Jennifer Franklin (photo below) who graduated from Brown and Columbia. Her full-length collection, Looming, was published by Elixir Press in 2015. Her poetry has appeared in Blackbird, Boston Review, Gettysburg Review, Guernica, The Nation, The Paris Review, poets.org, Poetry Daily, Prairie Schooner, Salmagundi, Southwest Review, and Verse Daily. Franklin is co-editor of Slapering Hol Press and she teaches poetry workshops at The Hudson Valley Writers’ Center and lives in New York City.
If you saw her, you would think she was beautiful.
Strangers stop me on the street to say it.
If they talk to her they see that beauty means
Their sight shifts to pigeons on the sidewalk.
Their eye contact becomes as poor as hers. They
slip away with varying degrees of grace. I never
know how much to say to explain the heartbreak.
As her smile sears me, I hold her hand all the way
home from the swings. The florist hands her
a dying rose and she holds it gently, without
ripping the petals like she does to the tulips
that stare at us with their insipid faces,
pretending that they can hold my sorrow
in their outstretched cups because I knew them
before I knew grief.
They do not understand that they are ruined for me now.
I planted five hundred bulbs as she grew inside of me,
her brain already formed by strands of damaged DNA
or something else the doctors do not understand.
After her bath, she curls up on me for lullabies—
the only time that her small body is still.
As I sing, I breathe in her shampooed hair and think
of the skeletons in the Musée de Préhistoire
in Les Eyzies.
The bones of the mother and baby rest in a glass case
in the same position we lie in now.
They were buried in that unusual pose,
child curled up in the crook of the mother’s arm.
The archaeologists are puzzled by the position.
It doesn’t surprise me at all. It would be so easy
to die this way—both of us breathing our last
breaths with nursery rhymes on our open lips,
the promise of peaceful sleep