Child That Did Not Come by Gordon Walmsley


Gordon Walmsley, Born (1949) and raised in New Orleans, Walmsley currently resides in Copenhagen, and returns to his hometown several times each year. He was graduated from Princeton University (German Literature), and has given workshops in England, Denmark, Switzerland and the United States. Walmsley's poems have appeared in various international journals, including the Sarajevo magazine Album (in Serbo-Croatian) and YAWP: a Journal of Poetry & Art. He is the author of several books, including most recently Touchstones, a Journey Through Poems in Xenophobic Times (Salmon Publishing 2007). Walmsley also has edited and translated (from Swedish, Danish and Norwegian) Fire and Ice, an Anthology of Nine Poets from Scandinavia and the North, and is currently the editor of the Copenhagen Review, an online magazine that takes place in five languages.

No sorrow


in vain

and no wound



a child went out at night

to touch the membrane of stars

her fingers reaching just so far

weeping is always of the blood

and makes the leaves along the tree line


and as for love

it is a fire full of mercy

strong enough

to set things in motion

and no heart sears

more than it can stand

and the heart is always


sorrow and longing

never seem to end

yet it is through them

the mysteries of love

are deepened

What is great in a man

is how far his love will reach

whether it extends to the limits of his skin

or flows out gently with waters of empathy

and nothing is more of the Passion

than to stand in a sandy place

with a broken shard of clay in your hand

blanked to the stars

to the moon and the sun

and to the next


a vase that was beautiful

as anything vanishing

with leaves and twining flowers,

the motion of becoming

you cover the jagged shard with your hand

or lift it up into the light

dreaming back

the day the first brushstroke

was set

and you thought it


with all its possibilities

If you were to ask her

how her waters moved

she might say she had become

dry as sands in winter

wakeful, sober, and honest

and that her hands had begun to

grope beneath the grains

fumbling for something smooth

and useful

and that having found it

she would sweep away the sand

brushing whiteness from a glinting mirror

and if you never asked

she might tell you

the child she was bearing

did not come

though it reached within her

for nine full months

and there was sorrow and emptiness

more than a heart could bear

and what she would never say

was that she had ranged

through veering passions, crossing

a sandy place in winter to

a place of burning ice

and almost drowning in the

thick waters of her streamings

but that her streamings were warm

at least they were warm

We rise as we must rise

heavy and full of dread

or as a butterfly or angel

delicate as froth along a beach in winter

half-frozen yet also light-

we walk across dunes with the great sea


and sometimes

the wind is so strong

it will stop you from moving.

that is the way of the northern wind

whose way is to test you

strengthen you

and bring you

to yourself

and you child that did not come

your going is a mystery

no grief can fully contain

and what you fashion in this world

is an abyss-

it is not as though

things are as they were.

things are as they were

yet now there is an empty place too

I see it as a mirror

gaping wide



First published in Sturm und Drang: A New Orleans Anthology of Poetry & Art
(Dec 1 2009) edited by Dave Brinks and Bill Lavender