“Children’s Hospital,” by Katie Ford

Today a poem by Katie Ford, a friend, prophetic poet, and mama. I met Katie at Harvard Divinity School, where we were both students. Her poems have been making people stop in their tracks and take a deep breath since then. Amazing, searing language wedded to huge intellectual power and gorgeous imagery.


Children’s Hospital

The flask in hand, it had its place.

And the canyon, for millennia, its place,

but our sorrow had neither place nor carrier-away,

and dared not hover over the child

whose breath opened as transom of a frail house.


We could not put sorrow in the dictionary, for ghastliness

already shot out its own defining

in rags of fired light;

the pigeons would not sleek it

over their dirty coats, nor fly

the sorrow against the aviary’s sharpened fence;

the ocean, so tired of receiving, glassed over

against sorrow’s divers, and each wonder of the world dug

its story more intricately towards the hiding

that simply wants to be at Earth’s restful core.


We could not shed it, we could not leave it.

Each day bridgeless, each night birdless,

all the nocturnals needless at the expanse

of our nightwatch.

But wake at the moon, we could, mumbling

are we in a horrorshow—

inside of sleep our shock-white minds caught on reels

where a child’s body breaks the heart

and the mother can’t know if she counts

as mother.


I don’t know if the child heard

what wept at the bedside,

orderlies snapping smelling salts from their chalky bullets

against all the mothers falling, all the fathers catching

what each branch let down

of snow’s hidden weight.

3 responses to ““Children’s Hospital,” by Katie Ford

  1. Merry Christmas Ronan.

  2. Genevieve Steidtmann

    Powerful words. Beautifully tragic.

  3. Powerful, honest, and true.

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