Death of the Artist// The Dead Baby Poem
Death of the Artist// The Dead Baby Poem  horror stories

Autoplay OFF   •   a year ago
TW: infanticide that is not taken seriously.

This poem is a mix of things. I always feel like when I first finish a piece of art that it's beautiful and perfect. That is, until I post it. That's when I notice the inaccuracies or something I don't like about it. I feel for my muse, who can't feel good about that.

Death of the Artist// The Dead Baby Poem

I found my baby

In the River Tiber

being pecked at by eagles.

I knew she was mine

From her rainy grey eyes

Now looking past me

And never at me again.

I dragged her out and marched

Back to my wife

Who was sitting by the fire rocking back and forth.

I scream at her.

She does not flinch or look away from the fire.

I hoarsely beg her to explain

why she keeps doing this

To us.

She answers:

"Because its face is too uneven."

And returns to rocking.

I demand that

she holds our dead baby

And she does so

No remorse or motherly love from her face.

She points to the eye

In 3/4 profile

And says that "the nose doesn't

Cover it up enough at this angle

Even with the proportions of

An infant."

And returns my baby to me as if

She never lived.

I buried her next to her siblings,

All of whom only I named.

I went to a sybil with the issue I faced

With no sons to take my land

or place as head of the family

Because my wife keeps exposing our children to the


My son for hiding his hands

His brother for having oddly proportioned feet

His sister for looking too old for a baby

Her brother for not even looking like a baby at all

And yet another had a gigantic head

and insect-like eyes.

The sibyl nodded her head and took in the vapors of

what the gods were telling her:

"Understand your place in this

When you heirs are born

Of ink and wrist.

It is in her head

that they are mixed


And left to rise

And baked to just the right time

She judges the

saturation and contrast

And proportion

Both physical and aesthetic

And she also needs to consider

What platform she'll be showing it to

And how that'll affect the thumbnail...."

"I'm sorry, what?"

"She must also consider her audience,

Dear man,

Demographics are hard to nail down.

And if it flops..."

"The baby?"


If it flops she must move on and make another

And pray it does better

So that maybe she can

build a good solid audience

And get paid for commissions that way...."

"You must have misunderstood the situation..."

"No no no

Dear child

It is clear

From Apollo's own mouth.

Your wife is under a lot of pressure

Because the competition she faces is fierce

And the community can be kinda condescending

And gate-keepy

And there's always that sexist comment that negs by insisting that

"it's good but....""

I am too embarrassed to admit that Apollo's advice

is bouncing off of me like

Hard rain on leaves. I nod

and pretend to understand.

"So if you find you children

Exposed on the cliffs

Or thrown in a river

Remember that

She is doing it

Out of loving you

And out of pride of her craftsmanship

And maybe a little too much self doubt...

But when she does keep your child,

You will raise your standards too. "

I was left numb and walked home in the rain.

"I'm pregnant again", my wife says to me

As I closed the door.

As I watch her belly grow,

Her mood shifts between optimism and

Stress and anxiety

To the prideful feeling of creating something perfect.

I grow more depressed. My eyes are sore

From sleepless nights crying.

The birth came smoothly,

Though messy as is

with this sort of thing,

And I watched my little one's mother examine her.

She flipped her upside down

She tilted her at different angles

She held her close,

Stood apart and

squinted at the baby from across the room.

At first she smiled

"Our little girl,

Oh how beautiful!

She looks just like you,


Oh how lovely those curls are!

We've made a masterpiece!"

And then she frowned.

When my wife went to sleep,

(And that was only after checking how the

Baby looked at

this angle

Or in this lighting

Or upside down once again),

I took our little infant and ran

In the rain to the temple.

"O sibyl", I pleaded,

"Take this child

Before some inaccuracy

Sends her flying

Into eagles' mouths!"

And the sybil did take her

But I did not see

To where.

My wife did not ask after

The empty crib.

And so I did

In the years to come

twice more go

Banging in the rain

At the temple door

"O' Sibyl!

I plead

Take this child before

Some inaccuracy

Feeds her

To Tiber fishes. "

Some years have passed

And I have a lone daughter

That I did not need to hide

Who cares for the lands

that her cousin will take

On my death.

I am old

My wife is old

But our blood is strong

And pretty

And a good deal smarter

Than I would like

(Which is to say,

Smarter than me.)

Pity Rome could not see that.

It was she,

Our precious Mori,

Who ran into the kitchen

And told us

That her long lost sisters

Are outside

With their armies.

The shadows of spears and banners

Blotted out the sun

From our window.

Outside were three women

They were mine

And they were my wife's

Two with my eyes

Two with her height

Bronze hair of their mother

And my curls.

The first spoke:

"I, Pepilla of the places

Beyond the border of what is known

To the 'civilized' world,

Have built temples

Of skulls and bridges of bones.

They fear me from Athens to Carthage

For I've built grassy hills

From pits

Of the rotting unworthy

Buried together.

And I have come

To take the land that is mine."

The one next to her spoke:

"I, Jonesia of the oak trees

In the North

Beyond the sea

Have amassed a force

All my own

Of the faithful who will

Follow me to the very ends of the earth."

"That's lovely", I say.

"And we shall end our pilgrimage

Just outside your door

Where we will drink

Our last sip of wine

And convene with the gods at long last."

Their sister, hidden behind matted hair and

Tattered rags spoke:

"I, who drags

My doomed bones about

The streets of Rome

With not a soul to see me,

To live a life so ignored

Is to not live

And I wish I never was.

I've come

To curse you

For not exposing me at birth

Here on the land

That was supposed to be

For me,

Untitula Jeipegius"

Mori turned to us,

Her parents,

With betrayal across her face:

"My whole life

I've walked these


Fed those goats

Pulled those weeds

To be told the whole time

By virtue of my body

That these lands are to go

To little Tibius

Or Ploticus

Or whatever -ius

Comes after me.

But here I see

To get respect all I need

Is to amass an army

Or to build a

Suicide cult

Or to stomp my feet in

The mud and toss around

Curses like seeds

On toiled soil!

The last word came from their mother

Standing in front

Of pilgrims

And criminals of war

And the rest of us.

"As it was told to me

As I shall tell you:

What we create

Is never truly

under our control,

Try though we may,

Meaning gets lost along the path

From here to there

And new meanings arise

To new people

Who fight about who is who

And who is right.

None of you are as

I intended.


Of frog spotted banners

And smug countenance,

Who builds hills

Of mass graves,

Whose men carry torches

And shout stupid things,

I should have let the eagles have you.


Of oaks

Clearly mad

Thinking gods will take you

And your dirty

Pilgrims into their marble halls

If you all turn blue

And die first.

I should have tossed you into the Tiber


You had potential

You truly did

Proportions were correct

Your eyes were as lovely as mine,

But here you are

Screaming loudly

As you dig your own grave

Drowning in your own self pity.

I should have left you for the wolves.

And dear Mori,

Who cares for her foolish father

And me

And toils our fields

Praying senators switch

Their decision

To take her work from her

Because she is she.

I've spent my life

Watching you in awe and

In pity

Of how you are

Just like him

And just like me.

I kept you for your

stormy eyes

Black curls

And stubborn will

Against my judgement.

Your first look to me

Was a look that

Dared me to try

To throw you away.

Will my acknowledgement

Of you change

Your fate

Or will your cleverness

Be blotted out

By acts of state?

That's not for me to decide.

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