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Never Born

May 2016

Looking at the title of Thomas Lux's poem, "For My Sister," we might expect a poem on a fairly common subject. There are many poems addressing directly or indirectly sisters and brothers. But this poem is not typical, as these excerpts show:

Forever we've never spoken.
First, our mother died
and, soon after, our father.
He would've loved you, and I understood why
when your niece, my daughter, arrived.
You'd look like her. She is already twenty-five.

This is a sister who was never born.

The poet wonders "Were you younger than me, or older? / I always wished for younger."

With both his parents now gone, the poet wonders about what he is left with and what is lost.

I have a box of papers: a deed
for pastureland, naturalization forms,
boneyard plots, many pictures, certificates
of births and deaths—though none of,
nor for, nor of, you.

In Thomas Lux's collection, To the Left of Time (Mariner Books) from which "For My Sister" is taken, there are three sections. One section is semi-autobiographical poems and another section is odes, and this poem seems that it might exist in both categories.

Lux is known for his satire and humor and his images both figurative and in plain language.

In this poem for a sister who never existed, he spends most of the poem talking about his mother and father and his own daughter. In some ways, it is a message that tries to update this sister on what her life would have been.

When I first read this poem, I thought of a story that my mother often told about the doctor telling her when she was first pregnant with me that she was going to have twins. There was no twin. Never was a twin, but my mother had prepared for two of us and as a child hearing this story, I sometimes wondered about that sister or brother that never appeared.

This month's prompt is to write a poem for or about a sibling who was never born.

For more on all our prompts and other things poetic, check out the Poets Online blog.


Had you been born
Mother would have broken
More dishes,
You making us twelve.

Had you been born
You would have been teased,
For you
Would have been the youngest.

Had you been born
You would have been left with
Aging parents,
Numerous nephews, nieces.

Had you been born
You would have walked to
Junior college,
With books no one else read.

Had you been born
You would have ridden,
Spring and Fall,
To a shining world in the hills.

Had you been born
You would have left forever,
Never to return,
To walk a different path.

Had you been born
It would be you, here, writing
These lines,
Forgetting the past.

Robert Miller


I wanted you
alone in the big house
sibling rivalry with the dogs
our father always nicer
to them.
I borrowed other kids' sisters
and brothers
they were always willing
to give them up
but I had to return them
after an hour
of braiding hair.
I taught some of them to swim.
The older ones were harder
had no need
for another younger
closed their doors,
drove off in cars.
You might have been the same
but I picture you small
like me
your love for me
hunched together
in the back seat of the car
my bulwark, me yours
against the ire
falling down like rain.

Michelle Lerner


We never talked about it,
this baby who never was.
The baby who never could
have been a baby,

the doctor said.

Nothing was forming there,
nothing was growing
but a hairball-like growth,
of which no life could come forth.

Bobbie Townsend


Why you didn't want to be
is beyond my understanding.
I tried to bring you into being
but you were still,
unmoving within me,
never to see sunlight
or breathe our air.
Your universe, no universe.
A time before creation.
Then, I cursed you silently and aloud.
Now, I think about you.
I miss you in that way
we can miss things that never were.

Lianna Wright


I am a red stain on the wall.
This wall, that wall, one wall, the wall, any wall.
I am neither an observer nor an spectator.
I am an accident in time.
I hear the murmurs, the voices, and the cries.
I know nothing, I feel everything.
One day as I wait, I will be gone.
Washed away by a hand.
I fear solitude, the deep water and the dark.
I wish I was flower,a snail or just a grain of sand.
Yet I am nothing,
Nothing more than a red stain on this wall.

Oriana Vesga-Lopez


Are you there?
I want to share many things
I cannot tell the others.

They mock
The others
But not you, I know.

I wanted to talk about things common


What it means to be a human
The joys and pains
Losses and gains
Suffering and recovery
Death and birth
The cost of being ordinary and powerless
In a commodity system.

I know sharing won’t alter things or status
But it makes me heal faster.
I wish you were here, my sister, with me
---not up in the sky, somewhere!

Sunil Sharma


You made her forever uneasy,
looking for goblins in every corner,
the basement especially, and
those dragons that inhabit the bathtub
drain. Any breathtakingly
beautiful vista without a guardrail.
Every rubber band or button
that could choke a child; invisible
germs on crayons, the tiniest fishbone
down the throat. She was a nurse,
she knew the hazards of living.
She took every precaution to get me
born alive – unlike you. You
were the happy one. I believe
she laughed when you kicked her
in the womb. And then
you left before she could ever hold
you. I paid her grief. She
made sure I wouldn’t get away.

Taylor Graham


You who never were and never can be
Arise as thought each morning with the sun
Unknown, yet familiar as bird song
Inseparable as the lake and its shimmer
All I can know of you is the knowing of you
And as such you cannot be known
Yet eternally unborn will never die
And remain forever close and shining as God's Infinite Being.

Gill Lucas


It was better for all of us that you were never born.
Mother had enough to worry about,
What with God and his thunder and his dust,
And the threat of strangers in the house;

And Dad, who already had too much on his mind,
With World War II and all,
Would sooner or later have misplaced you,
Like he did one time or another to each of his four sons.

First leaving Rich at a parish picnic
Because his war buddies needed a fourth for pinochle;
Then Leon, at the department store,
And didn’t realize it until Mass was half over;
Or Jack, who wandered away during a fireworks display on July 4;
Or myself, at a Scranton candy shop,
Because I let go of his hand to reach for a piece of chocolate,
Then had to ask a cop to find him.

At your birth, I’m sure they would have been proud
That they finally had their own little Stanley,
Without which, a family isn’t completely Polish,
A potential saint named in honor of Stanislaw Kostka,
Who might have his own visions of Mary, and by whose intercession,
The whole family would be gathered up to heaven.

But knowing Dad, the novelty would have soon worn off,
And one day, just walking the neighborhood, holding your tiny hand,
He would think of the beach on Woodlark Island
From which part of him never returned,
And you would be as gone as if never born.

Ron Yazinski


I was born
After the other
Went missing

The womb a dark culvert

And to see the light
You have to look out

For years
Maybe still
I wonder if the one before me
Would have been smarter
Or kinder

If it would have paved a way
For me
Different than things are now

Would I have four sisters
Instead of three

An older brother
To learn
About boys

Before my own
Emerged from the culvert
Of me

They the very ones
Holding the light

Patty Joslyn