Mildred Klinghoffer

Mildred Klinghoffer
(By Carl Sandburg)

Tid-Bettes: Bette would often recite this poem as the prologue to “I Shall Be Released.”

Mildred Klinghoffer whirled through youth in bloom.

One baby came and was taken away, another came and was taken away.

From her windows she saw the cornrows young and green

And later the final stand of the corn and the huddled shocks

And the blue mist of a winter thaw deepening at evening.

In her middle forties her first husband died.

In her middle sixties her second husband died.

In her middle seventies her third husband died.

And she died at mid-eigthy with her fourth husband at her bedside.

Thus she had known an editor, a lawyer, a grocer, a retired farmer.

To the first of them she had borne two children she had hungered for.

And deep in her had stayed a child hunger.

In the last hours when her mind wandered, she cried imperiously, “My
baby, give me my baby!”

And her cries for this child, born of her mind, in her final moments
of life, went on and on.

When they answered, “Your baby isn’t here” or “Your baby is coming

soon if you will wait,” she kept on with her cry, “My baby! let me
hold my baby!”

And they made a rag doll

And laid it in her arms

And she clutched it as a mother would.

And she was satisfied and her second childhood ended like her first,

with a doll in her arms.

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