Happy Birthday, Worm Lips

Worm Lips

That little boy at soccer:
I stare so much his mother pulls him closer to her side.
His hair is on fire.  The wind stirs the flames,
and I am blinded by ashes I try to blink away.
It looks like smog in a sunset
before the final light of day fades to dark.

Your smile suggested petals in spring,
lips new as a rose in bloom.
They looked like gummy worms:
stretched and lined with dry skin.
Worm lips don’t sound like much,
but sometimes they’re all I have.

Your skin was soft and white, at times translucent.
You were my burning Irish boy.
The day I took you fishing, your legs
stuck out from under your overalls,
turned red in less than an hour.
Had you grown older, freckles would have covered your nose.

The blue of your bright eyes stunned me
until I probed and found only gray.

The box lowered was enormously small,
stark against glittering rocks
almost as pale as the morning I found you,
swamp cooler humming and hiding my cries
made faint by cinder block walls.

This soccer-child climbs onto my lap.
I hold my arms loose around his slender boy-waist,
too afraid to hug any tighter.  His hair tickles my nose,
wafts Cherry Blast scent, and I struggle against this smell,
so clean and alive.

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10.10.94 Jeremy at birth

4 thoughts on “Happy Birthday, Worm Lips

  1. Pingback: I’m Sorry–I Just Don’t Like Your Shoes (or Tupac) | jamie calloway-hanauer

  2. Pingback: Just Like Heaven | jamie calloway-hanauer

  3. Movingly and perceptively written, Jamie. I miscarried a baby and know a little of how you feel. I lost my baby sister when I was seven and old enough to feel the personal loss, but also to suffer from my parents’ inability to deal with a death caused by hospital negligence, the second such loss of a child they had suffered. Their only son died before I was born. My mother was in her 60s in a cardiac ward that had been built on the site of the nursery where her fourth baby contracted her terminal illness, before she came to terms spiritually with Susan’s death. Writing poetry — along with other spiritual experiences — helped me to uncover how my siblings’ deaths influenced my behavior into young adulthood.

    I know I didn’t recover quickly enough from my grief over my miscarriage to protect our other children from unnecessary pain. I did learn to tell people we have five children, one in Heaven, which is the Irish custom. But what of the more awkward truth that the sixth child, my husband’s first child, spent most of her time with her mother, who was officially deemed insane and who had committed murder? There is more than one way to lose a child.

    I think what has been lost to us is found in another dimension, a reality where a transference of essential Being from here to someplace near — contiguous with earth — has taken place. I do not say that to trivialize your pain, the significance of death, the agents of death, or the anguish death brings to those who love the deceased. But many experiences, as well as the stories of others, have taught me that life does not end when the body dies. Although I cannot adequately explain in scientific language that change from life as we commonly perceive it to life as we occasionally glimpse it, I do know that God can speak to each of us in the specific terms that will transform our individual consciousness of loss. Could it be that “clean and alive” smell of Cherry Blast is trying to tell you something?


    • You have made me cry today, which is probably a good thing. Sometimes tears are hard to come by. In death, I grieve for the living, not the dead, although when it’s the death of a child, there is such a feeling of lost “potential.” Not in a capitalistic way, but in a spiritual and emotionally pure sort of way. Speaking of your poetry, in a week or so, I hope to link to your beautiful words.


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