Ron Charach | Toronto, ON | LCP member since 1987

Failure to Thrive

If only there were but one way to fail,
a hapless baby or two
lacking the know-how
to suck, breathe and swallow
at the same time.

Instead, is this progeny of souls
who received no love,
so can give none,
legions of near-retarded moms on welfare,
a drunken father on a park bench
and an ex-con boyfriend
who likes his women plump
and afraid.

They cannot heat bottles
they clutch at cigarette logjams
and drown in a sea of beer
the truck discharges at their door.
And if they water down baby’s formula
it’s because “everybody has to make do”;
baby’s developing brain too.

Elvis, belt that corny line,
“He’ll grow to be an angry young man
some day …”
He’ll break his mammy’s heart
his sweetheart’s jaw
and some kind of record
for putting fists through walls.

For now
we notify the Authorities
when the solitary mom fails
to show for the follow-up.

Oh, you sunken-eyed kid
with the big round head
and the “preemie look”
pulled so early
from the promised land of infancy,
one wintry night
I saw your nurse come alive,
no, thrive

when you finally kept down
all your feed,
and your great big eyes
started shining.


From 2008 Selected Portraits by Ron Charach. (This poem is taught in the medical humanities program at UCI Irvine.)

Winnipeg-born Ron Charach is the author of eight books of poetry, among them Dungenessque, winner of the Canadian Jewish Book Award for Poetry in 2003. He was contributing editor of The Naked Physician, the sole anthology of poetry by Canadian medical practitioners. His latest collection is Forgetting the Holocaust (Frontenac House, 2011).

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