, May 29, 2022

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Cradle Thief


  •   1 min read
Cradle Thief
Neil Moralee via Flickr

Intro by Ted Kooser

Caitlin Doyle, who lives in Ohio, writes haunt­ing, mem­o­rable poet­ry about the famil­iar and the strange. Her poet­ry is a fine exam­ple of what I call strate­gic artistry, as if her words have been care­ful­ly held back until they burst into light at just the right moment. This son­net, in which a young girl awak­ens to a world of new dis­cov­er­ies, orig­i­nal­ly appeared in The New Cri­te­ri­on.


By Caitlin Doyle

"A cradle thief," my mother called the man
we'd see in shops, cafes, parks, even church,
with "that poor girl" beside him. Hand in hand,
they'd walk as if they didn't feel the scorch
of people's stares. The day we saw him press
his lips to hers, my mother blocked my eyes
as if his mouth (I longed for my first kiss)
against her mouth was smothering her cries.
All week, I ran a fever that wouldn't break.
"A cradle thief"—a voice I only half
knew as my own surprised me in the dark,
my sick-bed wet with shivers. "A cradle thief,"
I said again, as if the words could will
my window broken, footprint on the sill.


American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2017 by Caitlin Doyle, "Cradle Thief," from The New Criterion, (Vol. 35, no. 10, 2017). Poem reprinted by permission of Caitlin Doyle and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2022 by The Poetry Foundation.


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