Iowa poet Laura Johnson’s “To the Daughter I Never Had” is a heart-rending work of what could have been, of loss, absence, and missed opportunities. In the poem, the narrator delves into experiences she would’ve had with the daughter that, for one reason or another, she wasn’t to give birth to, juxtaposing those imagined experiences with the “colder age” that has instead settled over a quieter and stiller life. Without holding her daughter, the narrator instead likens the child to nature metaphors. Laura told The Dewdrop, “The ways that nature and humans interact are innumerable, and I seek to find intersection between them. In that intersection, perhaps we humans can find truth or kindness to inform our lives.” It is a powerful and beautiful poem of motherhood and parenthood, despite the child never being born.
To the Daughter I Never Had You slipped by me, barely brushing my shoulder. Distant clouded lightning reminds me: you could have been. Each summer rain sweetens thawing soil — a phantom invitation. We baked no bread on the hearth — where a single black cat curls and dozes each evening. I spin spring lamb’s wool around the wounds of barren loss. Your absence echoes — now that a colder age has settled. I can only imagine you in metaphor. You: warm rose-scented wind. You: passionate pipe organ fugue. You: underground cavern fire.
Laura Johnson is a poet in Eastern Iowa who is a founding co-editor of the journal Backchannels. Laura is an MFA candidate at the University of New Orleans and is a graduate (BA, MA) of the University of Iowa. Laura’s work has appeared in Goat’s Milk Magazine, Thimble Literary Magazine, Prompt Press, and Wild Roof Journal, among others. Laura’s chapbook, Memento Vivere (Cabin Bear Books), is available at laurajohnsonwriter.com and wherever you buy books.