Conceived on Valentine’s Day, a poem
In the beginning, I almost hated them for bringing me into the world…
alone as egg, one floats weightless, drifting peacefully like a helium balloon,
and as sperm, one swims in ever-widening circles with serene joy.
I never approved the union: his tiny-tailed kamikaze wriggling to oblivion,
smashing headfirst into the mammalian membrane of her egg.
But now I love my frail universe; evidence of their short, fraught marriage.
They cooked me in the kitchen, first upon a midcentury, glitter-red dinette set,
then on gleaming, spotless black & white linoleum. I remember my mother
at that exact moment, the way she arched dizzily beneath him half-clothed…
her strapless formal askew, her silk stockings awry, her feet bare
after kicking off her spike heels. Barefoot & pregnant in the kitchen, she learned
quickly to live with organized madness. A love collision, a soft accident, birthed me.
She opened her soul to my father like a flower opening to the sun & he did the same;
my hands, my feet, my face suddenly called into existence by heat & explosions.
Filed under beauty, childbirth, daughter, daughters, dream, dreams, eternal, eternity, evolution, faith, family, father, fatherhood, fathers, heart, hope, love, mama, marriage, mortality, mother, mothers, mysterious, nature, parenting, passion, poetry, pregnancy, relationships, sex, soul, spirit, spiritual, spirituality, transcendence, tribute, truth, warmth, wish, woman, women
(Statements in italics taken from Ethics, by Baruch de Spinoza)
Look farther and farther toward thin blue sky, until the green feathery tops of the trees are like the northern pole on some dream planet. Put the anger back in its bottle. These trees are generous. Hatred can never be good.
Your carsickness from the ride up the mountain begins to fade, leaving behind a breathless, weepy echo not unlike your first religious fervor. Hatred is increased through return of hatred, but may be destroyed by love.
When have you not been afraid? The random can be scrutinized for meaning, the puzzle solved, when surveyed long & carefully enough. Anything may be accidentally the cause of either hope or fear.
These trees have plenty of time. As a child, you stared at Jesus’ sad face for hours, wishing you could marry him — wondering what it was that made him love you. Could you sacrifice yourself for the sins of the world, if it was that simple & necessary? Cathedrals turn us small and vulnerable again, for reasons both blessed & cursed. Devotion is love towards an object which astonishes us.
Vague, starry eyes like yours feel at home here; the air is weighty, burdensome & solemn. You’ve loved trees before; this is different. These trees have plenty of time – more time than you. If we love a thing which is like ourselves, we endeavor as much as possible to make it love us in return.
Your nerves are suddenly frozen, by the unaccustomed richness of perfect light. Your guide is tall & slender, hesitant to speak. Her mother has the tattooed forearm of a Polish Jew of a certain age. The knowledge of good and evil is nothing but an idea of joy or sorrow. Sorrow is [a hu]man’s passage from a greater to a less perfection.
These trees have plenty of time. She touches your wrist, and for a moment, you, too, want to grow taller, leaving the surface of the earth behind forever. Shyly, she picks up a tiny pinecone, smaller than a toy. You both laugh when she tells you this is their seed. Joy is [a hu]man’s passage from a less to a greater perfection.
These trees have plenty of time. And all around, their wise, fallen, hollow bodies litter the ground like the bones of saints. Childlike, you understand a wish to die here, never to leave this hush. They’re only trees – your neck bent back as far as it will go; only trees, yet wondering if the giants can hear your thoughts. Love is joy, with the accompanying idea of an external cause. Love and desire may be excessive. When the mind imagines its own weakness, it necessarily sorrows.
Is there anything we have less power over than our own tongues? These trees have plenty of time, growing wise as the Buddha, in their silence.
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Pregnancy, a poem
(after Alice Neel’s painting, Margaret Evans Pregnant)
Puffy hands clutch the seat
of the ruffled boudoir stool
to keep the woman from tumbling
to the floor, injuring
more than dignity;
her cumbersome belly bulges
taut, looms over the
like a great question mark.
Around her delicate knees
are small white dimples;
the pulse in the blue vein
revealed within a pale breast’s
taps in dreamy rhythm and
though her hair is unkempt,
her eyes gleam with gentle
confidence, patient sureness
that she will pass through
the coming ordeal of body
unharmed, spirit intact; that
everything in the world,
all the movement both inside and
outside her flesh, will emerge
from its hiding place at last….
Sometimes, I ask myself why I didn’t give her back sooner. Would it have been easier then, before I knew her personality, the sweet meaning of her every sound, every movement? Already I loved her smell, the weight of her small head on my chest, already I’d soothed and fed and washed her forty days running. That other mother gave life, I gave only touch, warmth, comfort. I couldn’t help it; I fell in love, it happens like that, quickly, without thought. I didn’t know how it felt to be someone’s mother. When I couldn’t become pregnant, I cried for days. My insides felt soft and hollow, like an empty purse. This little girl loves me, I know she does. She reflects a rainbow back to my eyes, in her smallest toe resides a perfect universe. I lie next to her at night, breathing the rich, salty fragrance of her hair, feeling her body growing, expanding to meet mine, and over our private nest flows time, but for as long as we can we rest outside death’s pull, allowing all that to pass by, content with this lovely darkness, this small sliver of heaven.
Sometimes I ask myself why I gave her up in the first place. It wasn’t easy, not even then; I haven’t held her since the day she was born, but I know her, like she’ll know me, without thinking. I began her life, I walked with her body in mine for nine months, we were never apart, not for a second. I called her my daughter. That woman has taken care of my poor baby for years, but in her heart it’s only me she’ll call Mama. Any fool knows this, anybody with a brain will tell you adoption can be a mistake. It was a crisis of self-esteem, more than anything. A momentary weakness, where I thought maybe I wasn’t strong enough to keep her safe. Once, during all this trouble, I almost gave up. All I had in my hands was a pink plastic bracelet, but I couldn’t forget holding her, I couldn’t forget how her toes curled against her foot, so small, so much like mine. Now she’ll never have to wonder whether I loved her, she’ll never have to discover where I live. The time we spent apart will soon be forgotten; she’s young and there’s plenty of time for our life to weave itself back together, to re-create our lost paradise.
Sometimes I ask myself why I couldn’t have had them both, forever. Is love so smart that it can tell the difference between one drop of blood and another? Being born was harder the second time, though life at home smells just as sweet; the weight of this new mother, her reassuring size, pressed against me like a sheaf of autumn grain, harvest of all dreams. Dimness is where part of me lives now, the part that slept near the warm shadow-woman of my first days, hands that held fast, then let go. Dimness, and a lifelong vocation to tell people — remember, I have no patience for fools, none at all — nothing is as simple as it seems. A child’s soul can fill even the most tortured shape imaginable. God knows, when I have my own daughter, she’ll ask how it was to be torn apart for love, and I’ll have to tell her: it was a beauty and a terror and a fiery cross, and gaining the knowledge of good and evil has a price… and those of us who’ve paid it don’t for a minute regret our sacrifices. Yes, it hurts, yes, it left scars, and yes, now and again I have trouble sleeping — don’t we all?
Filed under acceptance, adolescence, apologia, apology, baby, birth, childbirth, childhood, compassion, daughter, daughters, dream, dreams, family, girls, grief, human beings, humanity, justice, law, legal system, loss, love, mama, mother, mothers, mourning, poetry, pregnancy, soul, transcendence, tribute, woman, women