You carry your daughter’s coffin yourself
in the two hands that held her,
resting with feathers of black hair
a pulsing fledgling on your skin.
Not even an arm’s span of white wood,
you place her on the table,
with the backdrop, her name ‘Chloe’ and a teddy picked out
in cream chrysanthemums, pink gerbera buttons.
This is it. The end of tubes and operations.
The end of the children’s hospital’s well-trained nurses;
other parents, some as young as you, still glide
between intensive care and home, like ghosts.
It never ends though, does it?
The memory of her small body in, and on, your body
united warm on warm.
No end to the care that needs more
than two hands to hold it;
that surges on sleepless nights,
when you are with your other children,
those of strangers,
at the supermarket checkout,
passing those hospital doors.
Care by Claire Williamson received a special mention in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (May 2019) judged by Terry Jones.