By Sam Stephenson

A child in her bed,

hair drawn up,

head propped,

can’t stop coughing.

Her mother rests beside her,

exhausted from the endless days.

The girl steals a short breath,

savoring the reprieve for just a moment

before her deep bellows echo around the walls

once again.

Morning comes and the girl has yet to stop.

Red-eyed and restless,

her brother comes to care for her.

He listens to the rhythm of sickness,

as it rings in his thoughts.

The girl’s coughs fade slowly, like the tide receding.

Her brother pulls a smile to his face as his mind welcomes the silence:

a friend he has been longing to see, nearly forgetting its tender symphony.

A cool breeze blows peace into the room,

flooding his body and drowning his thoughts.

This euphoric stillness, which he can only ever seem to find hiding inside half of a moment,

swallows him whole and lulls him to sleep.

Their mother returns underneath the shadows of night,

the darkness of the world and the pitter-patter of rain rushing her in

to an unfamiliar chill and an amplified quiet in her home.

Drowning in the waves of exhaustion that crash on her as the door creaks shut,

she pushes herself up the worn stairs,

grateful to see her son deep in sleep against the door frame-

his hair tousled, shoulders slouched, and eyes sunken-

and her daughter asleep under the warmth of her blanket-

her head tucked, mouth ajar, and body still.

She tiptoes over her son, gently kissing his forehead-

careful not to disturb his soft breath.

She bends down to brush her daughter’s cheek,

but it is cold, and there is no breath to protect,

and the mother feels the anguish climb her throat

as fast as the lightning strikes the ground

outside the cracked windowpane


  1. This poem broke my heart to read, and it definitely took a turn I was not expecting. The daughter was never alone, her mother and brother had been there to the end. This shows the power of loyalty and love.

  2. I really enjoyed how although I knew what was going to happen, I still felt surprised and saddened. You’ve captured the moment and keep readers thoroughly invested in the story.

  3. I felt the suspense and climax of the story at the end. I believe the daughter/sister, since she felt cold and breathless, had tragically passed away. The silence and coughing imagery was so vivid, I could hear (and not hear) the sounds as I visualize a sickly girl in bed.

  4. I love the detail in this piece; I wasn’t expecting that ending but it worked really well with the overall tone of your words. Great job! 🙂

  5. This is really good! I like how you set up the ending throughout your story. I had this hope that she would live but, this feeling of dread started to build up towards the end.

  6. This is good! I like how you built up the ending throughout the story. I had this hope that she would live even though you could feel the dread coming in.

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