Malaria Poems: Still Born

Background photo ©James Gathany/CDC, Designed by Leigh Cavanaugh
By Cameron Conaway

“Malaria in pregnancy causes 200,000 still births in Africa.”6

Still Born

As the shadow attaches to her toes

so the mother slings the still

born over her shoulder until night 

when her birthed treasure is buried

with the others under the blankets.

At cock’s crow she presses the pink

of his unformed lips to her breast.

Soon the dead will have another

birthday and she will tell him stories. 

Though skin worked as silk turns 

rough as road she will caress 

river rock moss with her bare feet 

as she traps fish and recall the never 

there of his black downy hair.

In bed when the cold cat curls

around her like fog it will be him 

and she will match her breath to his.

Unlike most in these hills she knows 

miracles aren’t and will can’t but she 

is dreaming deeply and nothing beats 

back cold like real or imagined smiles.

About the Author

Cameron Conaway is the Social Justice Editor at The Good Men Project. He was the 2011-2012 Poet-in-Residence at the Mahidol Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit in Thailand and the 2007-2009 Poet-in-Residence at the University of Arizona’s MFA Creative Writing Program. His work has appeared or been reviewed in ESPNThe Huffington PostRattleTeach MagazineMöbius The AustralianCosmopolitan and the Ottawa Arts Review, among others. His first book of poems, “Until You Make the Shore,” was released in Winter 2013 from Salmon Poetry. For more information visit

6. Ghana Web. Title. 06/12/2009.