Finalist – 2023 James H. Nash Contest

Delivering a Dead Baby at Mercy Hospital


Both nurses were named Mary.
One held my hand. I cried,
and they asked about my pain.

One Mary tells me another woman
is doing this too, in the next room.

I held shame like the handle
of a moving car. Inside it.
Fingernails dug into plastic.
The nurses looked at each other.

One Mary pet my hair,
had a daughter my age.

Has she had her baby, the other woman?

A Mary presses the button on the morphine.
A Mary presses oxygen gently
to my face, like a kiss.

I was her little daughter
that had fallen badly. Scraped
herself all up, with dirt and rocks
under the skin, both knees.

RENEE EMERSON is the author of the poetry collections Keeping Me Still (Winter Goose Publishing 2014), Threshing Floor (Jacar Press 2016), and Church Ladies (Fernwood Press 2023). She is also the author of the chapbook The Commonplace Misfortunes of Everyday Plants (Belle Point Press), and the middle grade novel Why Silas Miller Must Learn to Ride a Bike (Wintergoose Publishing 2022). She and her husband live in St. Charles, MO, with their five children.