Amy L. Dengler Award (Winning Poem)

Leaving Mother Chechnya

My wife’s arms ached the night after
the orphanage turned us down, “No ties
to our culture; no way for the baby
to learn the ways of mother Chechnya.”

The orphaned girl with the scars may die,
“probably” is the Chechen translation,
and my wife sobs, rubbing her pale belly,
becoming an inconsolable quavering heap
on the sterile bathroom floor — her womb
a starving mouth waiting to be fed,

and she tells me she can feel it now,
rolling like an empty stomach, vacuous
in a way I can never fill, withering
by the hour. Waiting for our plane,
every foreign second feels like falling.