To My Firstborn,

a modified zuihitsu

“Anencephaly happens if the upper part of the neural tube does not close all the way. This often results in a baby being born without the front part of the brain (forebrain) and the thinking and coordinating part of the brain (cerebrum). The remaining parts of the brain are often not covered by bone or skin”—the CDC

White is the loneliest carnation on a hospital door. Snow is a blanket, tucking the ground in goodnight.

After your stillbirth, my doctor warned me against the hot springs. I would be vulnerable to bacteria. 

Skin is the largest organ of the human body. This is a trick question on exams. No one thinks of organs as external or as tearing so easily.

Seaweed sticks can be inserted to absorb moisture and widen an unready door. 

I’d read What to Expect When You’re Expecting but was unprepared. With your eyes resting on top of your head, you would never be ready for this world. 

Years before, I’d married in January during an ice storm. My handmade flower bouquet never arrived. After the ceremony, I-57 was shut down and left the wedding guests stranded. 

The nurse on duty didn’t believe I was in labor. You arrived with only your father to hear my screams. You were already gone. 

I drank sage tea and crushed cabbage leaves to my breasts to dry up my unneeded milk. I wanted to sleep in a snowdrift to ease the burn. Forever. 

We visited Yellowstone just weeks after you died. We’d already planned it. You were there in the pauses. The silence.

I read signs and guidebooks. Dogs are not allowed at Mammoth Springs in Yellowstone. They run over the thin crust and fall through to the burning pools, and owners will follow.

I slid into a creek the day we got the diagnosis. Your father pulled me to the bank. 

I wonder if he also dreams of your closed eyes, your small smile, or if he remembers you only before the nurses cleaned and wrapped you.

In Mammoth Springs, snow covered the wooden pathway. Even following behind your father, I had to feel my way across. The springs continually shift and open hot mouths to vent. Steam is the only warning. 

White is a blank space waiting to be filled, a dress to be worn, a flower to place on a box. 

LeAnne Hunt

3 Questions for LeAnne

What was your process for creating this work?

I wrote the first draft of this poem seven years ago in a workshop on Kimiko Hahn and the zuihitsu form. I was fascinated by how fluid the form is, slipping between prose and poetry, and its juxtaposition and contrasts. 

What is the significance of the form you chose?

I was drawn to this specific form to explain the disparate thoughts I remembered experiencing while processing a stillbirth. At 18 weeks, I had received a fatal anencephaly diagnosis and delivered a stillbirth at 19 weeks. I found myself in a blank space where neither medicine nor faith offered a solution but science and statistics could at least explain random tragedy without blame.

What is the significance of this work to you?

Writing this poem years later allowed me to see the cracks in the marriage already present at that time and recognize that the stillbirth that brought me and my husband closer would lead to the separation when our daughter was born. We were able to grieve together but could celebrate only apart.

LeAnne Hunt (she/her) grew up in the Midwest and now lives in Orange County, California. She is a regular at the Two Idiots Peddling Poetry reading at the Ugly Mug in Orange. She has poems published in Cultural Weekly, Spillway, Honey & Lime,and Lullaby of Teeth: An Anthology of Southern California Poets. She publishes a blog of writing prompts and apologies at

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