Parting Words

Elizabeth Sutterlin is from Croton-on-Hudson, NY. She studied international relations but has had a lifelong love of poetry.

Image of Short Fiction Contest - 2020
Image of Poetry

"When the assault on a maternity clinic in Kabul on Tuesday was over, 18 newborn babies were left behind, many covered in blood, and most now motherless. The youngest, whose mother survived, was delivered in a safe room after the attack had begun."

– The New York Times, May 14, 2020.

Baby, this world is an onion,
its layers of carnage partitioned only
by a few thin, purple walls.
My eyes itched
when doctors cut into the woman beside me
to haul out twins.
They watered
when men cut into the roof
to bring it down around us.

Baby, I felt the world shake within me
as you moved, beating your head against
the inside of my pelvis
like a battering ram
until I opened and gave way to you.
I felt the world shake around me
as men moved against the doors,
forcing the clinic to give way.

Baby, I watched someone
birth a tiny mewling son
in the moments before the shelling.
As soon as the child was cleaned
he was once more covered in his mother's blood.
As soon as she had wiped the sweat from her brow
she was dead.

Baby, was there even time for me
to deliver the placenta
that slippery lunch box,
your sidecar?
I didn't have much to send with you
but I wish there had been time to give
what I had:
a name,
a kiss,
a few months' milk.