Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

Apple Tree – Baby Poems

Jeanne Bryner
Cortland, Ohio, United States

Poet’s statement: Working in pediatrics, I find children’s bodies/spirits revealed in nature and my art. A child’s presence brings light to a room and hope to our world.


Apple tree

Here, in the backyard, beyond
the clothesline where I hang
my sheets, my eyes are drawn
to the dwarf,
the orphan apple tree,
one arm bent to her chest
its fingers clawed
her young spine crooked
as the country road
where I found myself
walking a nursery
with empty arms
and I thought
you could buy
another woman’s work
another woman’s child
but, this is a blossom
that’s not for sale.
And now gray tumors,
blotches on her skin
in April’s wind a hymn
Why me? Why me? Why me?
the only song she knows.

apple tree

Photography by Rogiro

baby hand
Photography by Daniel Goude

Baby poems

She wonders if they dream,
mind being stacked, is it primal
the way their fingers
cling to her own
how they tongue the air,
hungry to nurse?
Every sound startles
them, even her dog
sleeping in that chair.
Such tiny fists and feet
how often
she finds first lines,
scraps folded, little white socks
petals on her desk.
She feels guilty,
but she can’t rock
them all, and feedings
are howls and peeps.
it’s enough to make sure
they’re not soiled.
Yes, they’re fatherless,
but they all have names,
and it’s been years
since she’s dropped one.
A few have started to lose
weight, others are clearly tired,
working hard to breathe.
Holding them
now and then, well
it’s just not fair.
Mornings, nights
she hears them all,
on tiptoes,
she enters their room,
but before the curtain’s tied back,
before her pen’s raised,
before she dares
touch even one
she washes her hands.



JEANNE BRYNER, RN, BA, was born in Appalachia and grew up in Newton Falls, Ohio. A registered nurse, she is a graduate of Trumbull Memorial’s School of Nursing and Kent State University’s Honors College. She has received writing fellowships from Bucknell University, the Ohio Arts Council (’97, 07), and Vermont Studio Center. Her poetry has been adapted for the stage and performed in Ohio, West Virginia, New York, Kentucky, and Edinburgh, Scotland. She has a new play, Foxglove Canyon, and her books in print are Breathless, Blind Horse: Poems, Eclipse: Stories, No Matter How Many Windows, Tenderly Lift Me: Nurses Honored, Celebrated and Remembered and Smoke: Poems, recently published by Bottom Dog Press.


Highlighted in Frontispiece Fall 2012 – Volume 4, Issue 4
Fall 2012  |  Sections  |  Poetry

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.