Woman Poems

Childless Woman in a Playground

The children would let me be.
It is the mothers,
fathers who
stare at me. Their bald curiosity
confronts across the box of sand
demands my justification.

There is no role for one like me
in this place.
I become a woman
who has lost her only child.
A daughter,
she would have been three this year.
I would have brought her here
to play with the others
in the sand.

The children's voices leap and fall
call to the fathers, the mothers.
It is my own child's voice
pulling me away.


This is the woman who turns
     saucepan handles inward on the stove,
     has done so for years
This is the woman who has memorized
     lullabies all her life
This is the woman who collects
     second-hand picture books,
     shelves them close to the floor
This is the woman who saves
     the prizes from cereal boxes,
     keeps a crate full of toys wherever she lives
This is the woman who places poisons and
     breakable objects high out of reach,
     leaves on a light in the hall
This is the woman who has
     no children in her life
This is the woman who waits
      until her lover goes to sleep
     before she cries

The Childless Woman Meets an Old Friend on the Street

in the moment
when the baby turns
away from the stranger
to hide its face
in its mother's shoulder
I want
to be the mother
and not the stranger

The Rest of Your Life

Ask yourself
why you want this.
Who is it for?

The simple fact that you
carried her until she could walk
and even after,
that you consoled her
nursed her ills and
nurtured her well-being
delighted in her little hands and feet
her first few words
or that she hugs you freely
at three
is no guarantee
that at any time
in the rest of your life
you will be loved.


Sixteen and sixteen are thirty-two
old enough to be a grandmother now.
Among my people
in any other generation
I would not have had these choices.
The first Rebecca
raised on a slave plantation
bore nine children and
delivered ninety more
knitted socks
sewed dresses by hand from
feed sack prints
cooked over an open fireplace
chopped wood
butchered pigs
slaughtered chickens and
never learned to read.

--- Becky Birtha
From Bearing Life:
Women's Writings on Childlessness
©2001, The Feminist Press

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