Elegy for the Child Never Conceived

His would-be parents had but days;
The procreative ship sat docked,
And with the passengers’ delays,
That ship is gone, forever locked,
But if, instead, he’d been conceived
And been allowed to live and die,
His soul could one day be received
In the embrace of God Most High.

And hence it grieves my heart to see
A child-shaped space unoccupied,
Not running in the grass with glee,
Nor leaning on his mother’s side,
And no one in his space in bed
To kiss goodnight while tucking in;
No smiling face, no heart well-fed,
No warm caress from hands to skin.

When weighed against one human soul,
No sacrifice too great to give
Could ever be for such a goal
That one’s own child may simply live.



Joshua C. Frank works in the field of statistics and lives near Austin, Texas. 

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20 Responses

  1. Michael Pietrack

    The ship, docked, that will never sail again not have passengers was a nice image and way to express this thought.

  2. Cheryl Corey

    Joshua, if only this could be read to the pro-abortionists, perhaps in some way it would touch hearts and change minds. In the bitterest of ironies, don’t they ever consider that they get to enjoy their lives because no one aborted them?

    • Joshua C. Frank

      Thank you Cheryl!

      This poem, as Joe says, is actually about contraception, abstinence within marriage, and all kinds of so-called “family planning.” However, it’s also true that there’s more to being pro-life than simply being opposed to abortion. Contraception, for example, stems from the same anti-child mentality as abortion. It is difficult to justify accepting one but not the other.

      If you’re interested in an anti-abortion poem, please read my poem “What Is Pro-Choice?” feature June 13, 2022.

  3. jd

    Such a timely poem, Joshua. Thank you.

    The painting is exquisite, Evan. Thank you, also.

  4. Joseph S. Salemi

    This poem is not about abortion, but about contraception. The “would-be parents” have waited too long, or neglected the chance to procreate a child. So the child they might have had never comes into existence, not even as an embryo.

    • Joshua C. Frank

      That is correct, though it also includes all kinds of so-called “family planning,” even those that don’t involve artificial contraception.

  5. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    Josh, this poem is heart-touchingly beautiful. That ‘child-shaped space’ has me aching for what might have been. You capture perfectly the shifting tide of social seas where many in the Western world are choosing not to have children, or, like the couple in your poem, leaving it too late. Society is not on the family’s side. Nearly everyone attends university leaving them with a mountain of debt they have to work off. Houses require two to pay off a mortgage, and people are having children later… which often brings extra difficulties… and, sadly, children are not celebrated as they should be. Your poem highlights the miracle and wonder of children. It’s one of those beautiful poems that just might make a difference to the way people think… it may well be responsible for a few more miracles in this increasingly barren world. Thank you!

    • Joshua C. Frank

      Susan, this is the greatest compliment about my poetry I have ever received, especially from a poet as accomplished as yourself. Thank you so much!

      It would be wonderful indeed if this poem ended up being “responsible for a few more miracles.”

  6. Roy E. Peterson

    Beautiful Elegy, Joshua, that speaks to those who wait too late and sacrificed a miracle that could have been, as well as to others on joys of having and rearing a child of their own with your trenchant phrases. Susan put “this increasingly barren world” perfectly in perspective.

  7. Mary Virginia Vietor

    The “child-shaped space unoccupied” is truly heart-wrenching. The decline of the family has been on my mind and the quiet grief of your verse expresses it beautifully.

    • Joshua C. Frank

      Thank you Mary! It’s nice to hear that my poem was able to convey the emotion.

  8. Margaret Coats

    A brave and beautiful choice of subject, Joshua. Long ago, a friend of mine was fighting cancer, and after a few years she lost the battle. But during that time, she and her husband decided the most life-affirming thing they could do was conceive another child, in circumstances where most couples would not even think of it. A “problem” conception by a cancer patient means many sacrifices for her family and others, but it probably extended this mother’s life, and certainly gladdened parents and siblings. Still, as you say, the principal joy is one more human soul who may live forever in heaven.

    • Joshua C. Frank

      Thank you, Margaret! What a beautiful story about your friend, thank you for sharing it with us. I’m sure that heroic decision has earned her a promotion in God’s heavenly army.

  9. Norma Pain

    A very beautiful poem Joshua. Thank you for the message that it brings.

  10. Brian Yapko

    Joshua, I love this heartfelt poem. The message is deep and the words and the elusive tone just right to convey both wistful yearning and a hard dose of reality.

    • Joshua C. Frank

      Thank you Brian, I was hoping to hear from you. I’m glad you love it.


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