American Life in Poetry: Column 097


Though parents know that their children will grow up
and away from them, will love and be loved by others,

it's a difficult thing to accept. Massachusetts

poet Mary Jo Salter emphasizes the poignancy of the

parent/child relationship in this perceptive and
compelling poem.

Somebody Else's Baby

From now on they always are, for years now
they always have been, but from now on you know
they are, they always will be,

from now on when they cry and you say
wryly to their mother, better you than me,
you'd better mean it, you'd better

hand over what you can't have, and gracefully.

Reprinted from "New Letters," vol. 72, no. 3-4, 2006,
by permission of the poet. Copyright (c) 2006 by
Mary Jo Salter, whose most recent book of poetry

is "Open Shutters," Knopf, 2003. This weekly column

is supported by The Poetry Foundation, The Library

of Congress, and the Department of English at the
University of Nebraska-Lincoln. This column does not
accept unsolicited poetry.