At the bottom of a cedar chest that

Had been my mother’s, I found

An old newspaper clipping,

Yellow with age and so fragile

That bits of it disintegrated

When I picked up the piece of paper,

Which had been folded over twice,

But when I opened it up to lay flat

I could see that

It had been folded and refolded many

Times, over a long period of time.

On one side of the newspaper,

There were ads for patterns

To make ladies dresses and aprons,

And when I turned the paper over

I found birth announcements;

Baffled, I read through the list

Of babies born at Bethesda Hospital

During the third week of

September, 1940,

And noticed one circled faintly with

Pencil – a baby girl,

Born on the very same date I was born!

But the name of the mother,

One Genevieve Phillips—

Was not the name of my mother.

How curious, I thought –

Someone named Genevieve Phillips

Had a baby girl the very same date

I was born,

Why did my mother keep this clipping?

Why had I never heard the name

Genevieve Phillips?

And why wasn’t a Mr. Phillips

Listed in the announcement the

Way the rest of the announcements

Were worded?

In the back of my mind, a dark suspicion—

But no, it couldn’t be. It simply couldn’t be.

My mother would have told me.

Then the nagging thought –

Was the woman I knew as my mother—

Really my mother?

Who was Genevieve Phillips?

I crushed the newspaper clipping

And set fire to it in the kitchen sink,

But even as the old newspaper clipping

Blackened and turned to dust,

I knew I would be forever haunted

By questions—questions for which

There were no answers.


Sandra Lee Smith

Originally written May 12, 2009

Updated June 26, 2018

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