WATER CHILDREN by Ellen S. Jaffe

by Steven McCabe


Buddhist women may sometimes have special prayers and shrines for babies

who are miscarried or aborted, whom they call “water children.”



Water child, I bring you

chrysanthemums, ripe pears,

  coloured ribbons to tie up my prayers.

You live, still, floating in some sunless sea

out of reach       out of reach.

I call you by name, but you

are too far away

and you have not yet learned

how to hear.


ocean floor


I am the water child.

I am a lump of sugar dissolved in a bowl of green tea,

next to these white chrysanthemums and red ribbons.

I am a small pool, with one goldfish swimming in circles.

I am a humming-bird’s tongue, double-dipped in nectar.

Do not be sad.

I am not angry at you.

See, I will kiss you there, there,

nectar-wet kisses so another child

can begin.

My kiss is a tiny moth,

 a mayfly that lives only one day.

Someday, you will forget me

but not yet, not now.

I need you to water the white chrysanthemums.

I need the red ribbon connecting us, heart to heart

as it did once,

while I lay sleeping underwater

inside your skin.



I will sing you a lullaby,

braid the prayer-ribbons, red and green,

around this pear.

You could be the child inside the peach-pit

who accomplishes great deeds,

kills the raging monsters causing havoc

in the kingdom of my dreams.

Timimoto, Tom Thumb, Thumbelina

my bushel of tears           my water child.

water sunday

Ellen S. Jaffe writes poetry & fiction and teaches writing, and makes her home in Hamilton, Ontario.