After my post about Plath last week, I continued to think about her and I as I was working my way back through Ariel, I came across this poem:
Love set you going like a fat gold watch.
|The Child’s Bath, Mary Cassatt 1893|
The midwife slapped your footsoles, and your bald cry
Too its place among the elements.
Our voices echo, magnifying your arrival. New statue
In a drafty museum, your nakedness
Shadows are safety. We stand round blankly as walls.
I’m no more your mother
Than the cloud that distils a mirror to reflect its own slow
Effacement at the wind’s hand.
All night your moth-breath
Flickers among the flat pink roses. I wake to listen:
A far sea moves in my ear.
One cry, and I stumble from bed, cow-heavy and floral
In my Victorian nightgown.
Your mouth opens clean as a cat’s. The window square
Whitens and swallows its dull stars. And now you try
Your handful of notes;
The clear vowels rise like balloons.
Over the past twelve months (or so) four women I know have had four babies, all of them boys, even though the gender of the child has no bearing on this poem one way or the other. I like the poem because it feels gritty and real. Not the sunshine and rainbows version of motherhood that often comes off, to me at least, as sterile and dishonest. You can love your children and still be frustrated and exhausted by them, or at least I would think that to be the case.
I’ve also been reading two book by Adrian Matejka, The Devil’s Garden & Mixology. I just finished The Devil’s Garden and I was surprised to find that Matejka teaches at Indiana University (just down the road about an hour in Bloomington) and he was a Cave Canem fellow. This last fact is interesting because I greatly admire another Cave Canem fellow, Gary Jackson, and his first book Missing You in Metropolis. I came across Adrian Matejka’s work in the January issue of Poetry and was particularly taken with this poem:
Gymnopedies No. 1
That was the week
it didn’t stop snowing.
That was the week
five fingered trees fell
on houses and power lines
broke like somebody waiting
for payday in a snowstorm.
That snow week, my daughter
& I trudged over the broken branches
fidgeting through snow
like hungry fingers through
an empty pocket.
Over the termite-hollowed stump
as squat as a flat tire.
Over the hollow
the fox dives into
when we open the back door at night.
That was the week of snow
& it glittered like every
Christmas card we could
remember while my daughter
poked around for the best place
to stand a snowman. One
with a pinecone nose.
One with thumb-pressed
eyes to see the whole
picture once things warm up.
I had to look up “Gymnopedies,” which are three piano compositions written by the French composer, Erik Satie. I love the imagery in this poem and the way it closed in the final stanza, so I found two of his books and dove in. Some of my favorite poems from The Devil’s Garden: “Crap Shoot,” The Meaning of Rpms,” ” Her Gardens,” “Pigment,” “Eight Positions Mistaken as Love,” “Understanding Al Green” & “Insect Precipitate.”
I also came across this beautiful poem by Marion McCready, whose first book, Tree Language, is forthcoming from Eyewear Publishing.
And how do you survive? Your long throat,
your red -rag-to-a-bull head?
You rise heavy in the night, stars drinking
from your poppy neck.
Your henna silks serenade me
under the breath of the Pyrenees.
You move like an opera,
open like a sea of anemones.
You are the earth’s first blood,
How the birds love you,
I envy your lipstick dress.
You are as urgent as airmail, animal red,
Ash Wednesday crosses tattooed on your head.
Your butterfly breath
releases your scent, your secrets,
bees blackening your mouth
as your dirty red laundry
all hangs out.
These poems make me want to write. Excellent.