A Poem by Nancy Willard

February 8, 2009

posted by Caroline Picard (the * represent stanza breaks and have been used only for formatting purposes; they are not present in the original)


Nicholas, His Poem

by Nancy Willard

A man and a woman come at midnight

to a white room.

He hangs up their coats.

She puts on a white gown.

She has come to give birth


and he to make you welcome.

The doctor will guard your flesh.

Even the scissors and knives obey him.

Your father will keep your spirit.

Bread and wine are his familiars.


Did you think you could stay whole forever?


For months your mother hid you.

Now it is time to give yourself up.

They put out the light

that the glare of our lives may not

grieve you.


You fall into moonlight.

Wide-eyed and shining, you catch your breath

and rest, meek as a loaf

on your father’s hands.

When you enter the warm body


of your first bath

the water greets you,

your mother is weeping for joy,

your father wraps, gathers

you, helpless, traveling by moonlight.


When you are old, you will call this dying.


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