For Ireland’s Home Babies
Based on the exhibition (A)Dressing our Hidden Truths by Alison Lowry located at the National Museum of Ireland-Decorative Arts & History
There are ghosts in those glass gowns.
I see it now: tiny, little,
limp phantom limbs, dangling
lifelessly (swaying in the draft).
Small hands curled around nothing,
no mommy-finger to cling to in the end.
Heads slumped forward; no neck muscles
ever strengthened long enough to hold up
their too heavy heads. Faces still squished,
never given the time to smooth and soften
into beautiful baby features: mouths
still puckered, eyes still scrunched,
trying to learn how to breathe, how to see,
how to cry without the gurgle and bubble of placenta
popping out of inexperienced lips and lungs.
I want to walk over and take them off their spinning hangers:
remove their pâte de verre shells and wrap them in soft cotton.
Lay them in polished, mahogany caskets
with cushy, lily-white interiors.
I want to make sure their eyes
have been closed for rest, little lips
slightly upturned; closed fists
not clenched around nothing but holding
bouquets in their relaxed baby fingers
with those baby pink fingernails still so soft.
Everything for them,
always so soft.
By Eileen Ellis