Buddhist women may sometimes have special prayers and shrines for babies
who are miscarried or aborted, whom they call “water children.”
Water child, I bring you
chrysanthemums, ripe pears,
coloured ribbons to tie up my prayers.
You live, still, floating in some sunless sea
out of reach
out of reach.
I call you by name, but you
are too far away
and you have not yet learned
how to hear.
I am the water child.
I am a lump of sugar dissolved in a bowl of green tea,
next to these white chrysanthemums and red ribbons.
I am a small pool, with one goldfish swimming in circles.
I am a humming-bird’s tongue, double-dipped in nectar.
Do not be sad.
I am not angry at you.
See, I will kiss you there, there,
nectar-wet kisses so another child
My kiss is a tiny moth,
a mayfly that lives only one day.
Someday, you will forget me
but not yet, not now.
I need you to water the white chrysanthemums.
I need the red ribbon connecting us, heart to heart
as it did once,
while I lay sleeping underwater
inside your skin.
I will sing you a lullaby,
braid the prayer-ribbons, red and green,
around this pear.
You could be the child inside the peach-pit
who accomplishes great deeds,
kills the raging monsters causing havoc
in the kingdom of my dreams.
Timimoto, Tom Thumb, Thumbelina
my bushel of tears
my water child.
Ellen S. Jaffe. Published in CV2, Summer 1999, and in Water Children (poems), Mini Mocho
Press: Hamilton, 2002.