In the drab half-hour

before the office closes,

or, sometimes, late at night,

I think of them, the children

I didn’t have and tried to—

they are six, seven, ten,

their genders change,

none of them is the same child

week to week. I haven’t

named them. They turn up

with a football or crisps,

wearing puffy coats

so maybe it’s November,

and they hang around

waiting, I think, for me

to look down the road

to see if traffic’s coming—

it always is, and they’re

not near enough to hear me,

but they do that sibling thing,

jostle and lean in a pyramid

of shoulders, my trio

of Wanteds, my immaterials,

the weight of nonentity

sticking them together.

It’s not sorrow I feel

but a kind of shyness

in being not their mother,

so that when they look over

and beckon me to see

which one of them’s the


the longest/

I hesitate, a girl again,

not sure I’ll be allowed

to join the playground game.



From Like Other Animals, HappenStance Press, 2017

An early version of this poem, entitled 'Immaterial', was featured by Mslexia in 2014. This good fortune led to its being read by Deborah Sloan, a therapist, writer and creative writing practitioner, who got in touch -- thank you Deborah! -- to ask if she could mention the poem in an article she was writing. It was very moving to hear that the poem had made a connection with a reader. Deborah writes about involuntary childlessness and the relevance of creativity at Without Issue, where you can find her excellent essay 'The Presence of Absence'.