Silence By Elizabeth Shippen


The first time you told me,
I wrote her for you.
The child who would never
be, her hair red like fire,
her face dusted with freckles.
And in my story,
I made her a phoenix,
so that each death was also a birth.

Sometimes I wrote her
as a small mischievous child
stealing cookies from the kitchen
when your back was turned.
Or then again older
in a flat in New York City
searching for the perfect
recipe for hot cocoa.

And other times
I wrote her with wings
and a sword of flame,
brave and unrelenting,
and each death was just a pause
in a long and never-ending

But ink and paper are nothing
compared to flesh and bone,
and moments in the dark,
when the world is asleep
and she reaches out to you
with warm tiny hands
needing to be held.

So I let my words turn to ash
and forget how to speak
into that silence that grows
until it suffocates
and you stop telling me.

And we are left with nothing
but ash and silence. 

It won’t be me who has to carry it.
In the end, I won’t carry much at all.

Pain: I can take pain.
I already know what it is
to walk each day on marbles,
to place my feet down carefully
with every step as though
the bottoms have been beaten
and the bruising hasn’t healed.
It doesn’t stop me. Each morning,
I still get up, back onto my feet,
knowing there are people who
depend on me to be standing
and it gets me through the pain.

Disfigurement: that would hurt
my pride. My vanity wrapped
in practiced nonchalance
would crumble in the face of it,
but still, that’s not my biggest fear.

What I fear most
is what I might become
to my son.  

Long before you were born
I was afraid of it, the fierce
love of motherhood
and how it can devour
a woman.

I imagined my dreams
and years ripped away
by the relentless
jaws of motherhood.

So now as I hold your tiny
hand, I am surprised to find
that I’m still here.
Not gone or diminished,
simply full of something new
and different.

By Elizabeth Shippen


Elizabeth Shippen is a wife, mother, and Agile Product Manager in the Information Technology industry living on the North Shore of Massachusetts. Born in the D.C. Metro area, she grew up in Virginia before moving to Massachusetts after college. She has a Master’s Degree in English Literature and a Graduate certificate in Digital Studies from Salem State University. She completed her undergraduate studies in English and Creative Writing at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Her poetry has been published in Harmony Magazine and The Dickinson Review.

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