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Chanel Brenner-

A Poem for Women Who Don’t Want Children

I won’t preach about the rewards of motherhood.
I won’t say it’s the best thing that ever happened to me.
I won’t say it’s the best job I’ve ever had.
I won’t say you’ll regret
not having a child.
I won’t say you’ll forget what life was like before.
I won’t say it makes life worth living.
What I will say
is my son died.
What I will say
is I would still do it again.

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I Have 2x the Love for 1 Child

Since the death
of my older son,

I worry that the weight
of my love is too heavy.

I see my son hunched over,
carrying my grief

like a load of stones.
I worry he’ll learn

to bask in that love
till he sunburns,

come to crave
the sting and heat of it.

I worry that he is forming
like a rock in a river bed,

my grief-ridden love
rushing over him

like whitewater.
I worry that one day,

a woman will ask him
why her love is not enough,

and he won’t know
the answer.

_______________

Into the Schoolyard

He heads the train
of children linked by hands
and lunch baskets,
teacher for a caboose.

I watch from the gate,
waiting for his face,
blond hair curled
from napping, to see me.

I stare shamelessly,
while he’s unaware,
astonished by his beauty,
each time like the first,

as if there were something
temporary about his presence
since we lost his older brother,
as if he might flicker and burn out.

When he sees me,
his body picks up speed,
not letting go of the child’s hand—

propelling the whole train—
unstoppable in his will
as he breaks free into my arms.

_______________

The Tug of War

Having dinner with another couple
who also lost a child, I watch
their two-year-old bounce
on her mother’s lap,
grab the mother’s face and pull her hair
while she looks at the menu.

The child is the same age Desmond was
the night Riley died.
The same age Desmond was
when he asked,
If you had another baby
would it be Riley?

When the mother says she’ll stick with water,
I ask if she’s pregnant.
She nods her head,
but doesn’t smile.

I’ve been crying, she says.
I know I should be happy
and I am, but I’m scared too
.

I know what she means.
Eleven years ago, when we found out
I was pregnant with Riley,
we rushed out and bought a crib
that same day.

Now, if I were pregnant again,
I don’t know what I’d do—

hope pulling one way, grief the other—
joy the rope in my hands, raw and burning.

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Chanel Brenner is the author of Vanilla Milk: a memoir told in poems, (Silver Birch Press, 2014), which was a finalist for the 2016 Independent Book Awards and honorable mention in the 2014 Eric Hoffer awards. Her poems have appeared in New Ohio Review, Poet Lore, Rattle, Muzzle Magazine, and others. Her poem, “July 28th, 2012” won first prize in The Write Place At the Write Time’s contest, judged by Ellen Bass. In 2014, she was nominated for a Best of the Net award and a Pushcart Prize.

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