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Hush Little Baby: A Poem

Updated on November 3, 2011
The poet, remembering
The poet, remembering

Hush Little Baby

This poem is dedicated to the too-young children of abuse that I worked with over the years. I wrote it by taking the original nursery rhyme and adding to it to change its meaning as abuse changes childhood.

Hush, little baby,

Quell that wailing

Before daddy gets mad

Before Mama wakes up

Stare silently at the spot on the wall

Behind your crib

Where your head chipped the plaster

Last time you were thrown

don't say a word

To the doctors who ask

About the broken bone

To the teachers who talk

About the broken home

To the children who beat

Your broken soul

With more than sticks and stones

Mama's going to buy you

A treat to make up for it all

She’ll spend her last dollar on you today

And then sell your growing body

For a dime bag tomorrow

Chip off the old block even before

Your first chipped baby tooth falls

Out of your pretty little head

A mockingbird

Reverberates forever in your ear

Tells you that you’re worthless

Laughs at your dreams and your goals

If that mockingbird won't

Stop picking at your soul

Your sense of self is going to disappear

And all that will be left is a hardened shell of someone

Who doesn’t even know how to


Mama's going to buy you

A million things over the years

Apologies for the daddy that hurt you

Apologies for the men that came later

Apologies for the things that she did all in search of

a diamond ring

And a misguided chance at her own happiness.

If that diamond ring

Doesn’t come

She won’t see it as a blessing

She will see it as a terror

And she will blame you

Hate you

Hit you

Hurt you

You will watch as your open heart

turns brass.

As everything in you turns to steel.

You will become cold, turn off

Stuff the pain of Mama’s mistaken love way down deep

Inside a body that is growing older

Mama's going to buy you a looking glass.

She is going to teach you to wear make-up

She is going to teach you to lie still

To stare at the ceiling

To smile when what you really want to do is cry.

If that looking glass gets broke,

You need look no further than the person standing over you

To see how it is that you are supposed to behave

You are your mother’s sins

Her coldness is your chill

Her mistakes are your history

Mama's going to buy you

A thousand things that you don’t want

And very few of the things that you actually need

And then she is going to hate you for your

Lack of appreciation

a billy goat,

she will call you

referring to your stubbornness

because she doesn’t know

that you’re just stubbornly trying to survive

in a world where the chances of survival are slim

If that billy goat

Can stay strong

You may have a chance

Get out from underneath the weight of this

Childhood horror story

And make a real life for yourself

But if it

won't pull,

again and again and again

you will bear the burden of this tale for all eternity

you will start to crumble

you will start to fall apart

Mama's going to buy you a cart and bull

And you are going to think that she has finally come

To save you

To give you some help in getting through

This miserable existence that she has set up for you

If that cart and bull

Seem real


She isn’t going to save you

She is going to run you over

She is going to tell you to

turn over

And learn to take it from behind

Mama's going to buy you a dog named Rover.

She is going to make a thousand attempts at

Giving you a normal childhood

Because something deep inside her

Knows that she wants better for you

But she doesn’t know how to love you

If that dog named Rover

Makes a mess on the carpet

Chews up her shoes

Barks at the neighbors

She’s going to beat him senseless in front of your eyes

She’s going to beat the dog out of him

Like she’s beating the child out of you.

Until finally, he simply

won't bark.

And you simply

Will cease to be a child

And when you hear that

Mama's going to buy you a horse and cart.

You will know to look the gift horse in the mouth

To lower your expectations

As you lower your head

If that horse and cart fall down,

You know that it will be your responsibility to pick it back up

To make things right

To fix the problem that your very existence

Seems to have caused

You'll still be the sweetest little baby in town

But you won’t know it anymore

The cruelty of this life will have

Depleted your supply of self esteem

You will see only anger and hurt and rage

And all of the ugliness inside of you

So hush little baby

Quell that wailing

Before daddy gets mad

Before Mama wakes up

Stare silently at the spot on the wall

Behind your crib

Where your head chipped the plaster

Last time you were thrown

don't you cry

For the people who aren’t going to be there

Learn early on to dig deep down into your own inner wells

Find strength there, love yourself when no one else will

And wait for a better day, because it will come

You will find a new family someday

and when that Mama tells you:

“Daddy loves you and so do I.”

You will believe it

And you will be able to love yourself.


Submit a Comment

  • amithak50 profile image

    amithak50 5 years ago from India

    Nice poem ..Thanks for it

  • rebekahELLE profile image

    rebekahELLE 6 years ago from Tampa Bay

    Stunning. I love the power of the rhyme, very well done with such an important issue.

  • raakachi profile image

    raakachi 6 years ago from Madurai / Tamilnadu / India

    Great effort in lovely rhythm and lovely quote " And wait for a better day, because it will come". Fantastic. voted up! Beautiful.