Tabula Rasa


Did unwanted visitor carry viral curse?

Unborn baby wrestled, now in need of nurse.


Scan-monitor stated heart-beat missing:

unrequited, fond tummy hugs and kissing.


Soon her faecal-tinted tide dam-broke,

no newborn wail, deathly silence spoke.


Tabula Rasa* – mouth mute, empty her gaze,

baby body floppy – little for poet to praise…


Little girl gone, gone – listless limbs held,

pointless heart-plead, dumb tears welled.


Unsure guarantee: harsh natured womb,

daffodil scent, death’s unhappy perfume.


Petal-peeled her flesh, just womb souvenir;

tentative my embrace, many paternal tears.


My lips didn’t linger, porcelain-cold her cheeks;

what empty words can this poet now speak?


We stoic parents sobbed, pained our prayer;

no nappy changes,  her funeral to prepare.


Cruel joker smirked again, that April first –

Easter-empty tomb defiant, death reversed.


God not mocked, feeble faith rebounded,

young sibling spoke hope, parents astounded…


*Tabula rasa (Latin: “scraped tablet”, though often translated “blank slate”) is the notion that individual human beings are born “blank” (with no built-in mental content), and that their identity is defined entirely by events after birth.

My stillborn girl, Holly, was born April 1st. She was buried on Easter Monday, five days later.

illustration by Neringa Normantaite


2 thoughts on “Tabula Rasa

  1. This is heart-wrenching. The poet lets the reader FEEL what he felt. The artist lets the viewer SEE what the poet felt. Well-said and beautifully illustrated. After reading this–and other Holly works, Louis, I can better understand the terrible loss, not only to you and Liz, but to anyone else who loses or has lost their infant–before, during, or after birth. In the way of providing a deeper felt understanding in your audience, your poetry and your rare transparency is a gift and a ministry. The bit I don’t understand, however, is “harsh natured womb”. I feel that the womb nurtured and protected throughout the pregnancy; it was something else that was harsh. Am I misunderstanding?


  2. thank you for sympathetically reading this poem. it is my first fresh attempt to capture that moment in many years. in this particular instance of stillbirth, the life-giving womb unexpectedly became a contradictory harsh environment. i admit that phrase is open to confusion. i didn’t know how else to succinctly phrase that negation…

    Liked by 1 person

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