Outtakes from “When You Never Said Goodbye”

By Meg Kearney

When My Birth Mother Said Goodbye

WYNSG coverThey might have let her
dress me one last time—
something yellow, my
favorite color; something
as soft as a heart that is
breaking. She might have
smothered me with kisses,
an aching mother’s desperate
breath unable to stop time’s
flames from engulfing us.
When I try to imagine—
remember that day, that last
moment, the final kiss—it’s
as if an invisible hand pulls
me back from a dark,
bottomless abyss

The Hamster in My Family

Adoption’s no longer the proverbial elephant
in the room, which everyone pretends isn’t
there. We’ve come that far. Still, my search
is like a hamster in a cage no one cares for
but me. Brown and beige and kind of sad,
it runs endlessly on its little wheel. Once
in a while, Mom or Bob pad by and whisper,
“Good hamster!” Kate, at least, stops to ask,
“How’s hamster feel today?” Maybe it’s my
fate, but I’m the only one who feeds it, makes
sure it has water, reaches in through the steel
bars to pet its head. Everyone seems content
with this but me. They want hamster to stay
where it is, not let it out. They want our lives
to remain the same. What will they do when
I open that cage, when I give that hamster—
when I can give my first mother—a name?

Birth Mother

You were stories
I told myself:
“Once upon a time
there was an artist,
a beautiful woman,
a lost woman, a woman
of intelligence, of
integrity, of guilt
who carried me
inside herself until
I was ready to be
in the world. Then
she gave me away
like another painting,
another song—
a sacrifice to her muse—
a symbol of sorrow,
of mastery, of love
because she was poor,
because she was famous,
because she loved
the life she had before
she created me. But
these stories were
only my daydreams,
my art, my mirrors.
Now the true story is
stepping off the stage,
off the page—each
letter formed by her
hand a little ladder
for me to climb toward
truth. I’m rising rung
by rung, first mother.
I’m reaching for your
hand. Let there be
no more anguish, no
more shame, mother.
Throw me down
a light. Throw me
down your name.


Meg Kearney, by Gabriel ParkerMeg Kearney is author of three critically acclaimed YA novels in verse told in the voice of adoptee Lizzie McLane, all of which come with teacher’s guides as well as guides to their poetic forms: “The Secret of Me,” “The Girl in the Mirror,” and “When You Never Said Goodbye” (Persea Books, February 2017). Author of the award-winning picture book “Trouper” (Scholastic 2013), Meg also writes for adults, including Home By Now, winner of the 2010 PEN New England LL Winship Award. Her poetry has been featured on Poetry Daily, Ted Kooser’s “American Life in Poetry” series, and Garrison Keillor’s “A Writer’s Almanac.” Founding Director of the Solstice Low-Residency Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing Program at Pine Manor College in Massachusetts, Meg currently resides in New Hampshire. For more info, visit www.megkearney.com.

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One Comments Post a Comment
  1. Meg Kearney is rocking with Lizzie in WHEN YOU NEVER SAID GOODBYE. Though written for the young adult audience, this ‘not so young’ adult loved it. Read it for the story, read it for the poetry . . .

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