pandemic baby
by Wilda Morris

my mother was the baby
who almost died
of the Spanish flu

the toddler who lay
in bed like a squash
in the garden

or a carrot in the vegetable bin
showing no sign of life
fever turning her face tomato-red

heavy breathing        occasional whimpers
the need to be changed and fed
now and then      though she ate hardly anything

the little one whose teen-aged brother
tried day after day
to elicit a smile from her baby face

the brother who had loved how she giggled
when he made faces    smiled
when he sang     this brother could not bear

to see her nestled day after day in the blankets
like a radish among lettuce leaves,
expressionless     unmoving

until one day
this brother came
from the bedroom crying

to report the news        the good news
that after all these weeks
when the baby was too weak to sit or stand

weeks when she slumped on the bed
like a potato or pillow
the baby finally smiled again

this baby        my mother
lived a long, productive life but thankfully
not quite long enough to be isolated by the next pandemic


Previously published in The Great Pause, January 27, 2021.

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