In the House Next Door

— Millicent Kellogg

The house next door was exactly like ours
Front stairs straight up and forbidding
No flowers or trees or lawn – typical San Francisco
Inside, each room the same but world’s apart.

On a quiet morning, my Mother and I were invited in
To see the newborn baby just home from hospital.
I never saw a newborn baby before, and my
Six year old curiosity hurried me up the stairs.

The baby was in the same room as mine next door
He was so small, so yellow, so wide-eyed. He had
No smile on his face, but was reaching out to be held,
His tiny body gaunt from the cancer devouring him.

Asked if I wanted to hold him, I didn’t but I did.
It was like holding a badly made doll – arms thin sticks
Legs that would not straighten, neck strained to the side
And his back arched in pain – I gave him back.

His mother smiled down on him, with gently stroking fingers
And lips, she printed eternal love words on his cheek.
His dark eyes searched her face, and then closed,
Trusting she will gently carry him to silence.

Mother and I left very soon – we went back to our
House and never mentioned the baby again.
Sorrow became my untidy consort and we
Lived in a room that was haunted thereafter.

3 thoughts on “In the House Next Door

  1. What a coincidence! I was just trying to get a sense of what poems I have never read at Willow Glen, so was going through my posted poems, when I saw your comment on “Dumb Drunk,” way back from January, 2011.
    Thank you! I do think your stress on the comic aspect is right; it’s depressing and funny: lots of my (former) drinking days were like that…
    And be sure you know this too: i love when you read at our gatherings too! What a fabulous line, “trusting she will gently carry him to silence.”
    It’s a good thing, what we have going.. Take care, and see you–hopefully–in about nine days.

  2. The line: “Asked if I wanted to hold him, I didn’t but I did” is so evocative. One of the many times reading this poem that I thought, “Oh, yes…” I like this blog, because it gives me the opportunity to grasp wonderful lines and images I missed while just sitting in a chair “listening.” Thank you for writing this wonderful poem.

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