Poems About Parenting

Three Days

The repetition of division, small firefly
of heartbeat, buds of arms and legs, soft
ladder of spine. Eyes that find comfort
in darkness. Ears that remember heartbeat,
voice. Pulse of cord that sustains one life
with another, breath passing in a whisper
of blood, the bodies telling secrets to each
other: muscle, skin, bone.

A string of miracles so precise
and improbable, even a non-believer
might be tempted to consider God.
So who are we to ask for yet another
miracle? But we do. We wish
for perfect, and healthy. And then still
for handsome, and intelligent, and kind.

When I am two months pregnant,
I hear of a baby girl born missing
a section of her heart. She defies
statistics and lives. Strong. Fragile.
Beautiful. No one would have given her back.

So when my son is born and will not nurse,
cannot get enough breath into his perfect, new
lungs, my body will not consider anything
but healing. He has inhaled amniotic fluid,
perhaps unwilling to leave his first home behind.

For three days we live as two separate beings.

Oxygen hoods. IVs. Clear, insubstantial
tubes mocking my body’s ability to keep
him whole. But after the first hours, he nurses,
and then he will not let go. After three days
of doctors, nurses, and a long hallway between
us, he comes home. I carry him everywhere.

I try to erase those three days. That’s not how
we started, is it, little one? We started skin
to skin, fluid to fluid, hand to hand. Mouth
to nipple. Eye to eye. Heartbeat to heartbeat.
We started when I first felt you flutter
inside me. And before that, when I first
imagined you there. And you were there.

From Navigation (The Habit of Rainy Nights Press, 2012)

 

Yoga as a Mother

For the duration of my hour
and a half yoga class, children
are playing loudly on the street outside.

Though I don’t need a reminder
to think of my son. Even when I am
not with him, I can feel him in my body.

It is impossible to clear my mind in meditation.
Impossible to be the corpse that is shavasana. I am
always aware of his small hands, his loud voice.

My lower back, slightly sore
from lifting and carrying his twenty
pound, wriggling, body.

My arms, stronger now in warrior
after holding him for ten months.
Stronger legs holding horse stance.

My breasts, full of milk because
it has been two hours since he nursed.
I cannot rise into cobra without noticing.

My belly, trimmed with extra skin,
my core not as strong as before
his small life grew inside me.

When my limbs shake holding plank,
when I am taking Ujjayi breaths in downward
dog, I am thinking of 21 hours of labor.

No asana will ever be as long, or as
difficult. Thinking of his birth
puts all effort into perspective.

If I could birth this child without drugs,
with such focus, without sleep, then surely
I can hold chaturanga one more breath.

If I can love someone this much, this
fiercely, then surely I can let each thought
go and clear this mind. Kapalabhati.

Breath of fire. Skull shining.
Like my son’s head emerging in such
heat. I will never be able

to be empty.

From Navigation (The Habit of Rainy Nights Press, 2012)

 

Guilt Poem: Intimacy

There was a time when the light touch
of his fingertips up the path of your spine
was like fireflies awakening in your skin,
an invitation you accepted, leaned
toward in the electric dark. You came
willingly, thirsty with your blazing.
And often, you were the one who coaxed
the sleeping to wake, pressed the warm
length of yourself in urgent offering until
the tilting and arching of your body
spilled into his reaching arms.

There was no question who rose first
in your heart, who lit your eyes
with his returning, who you came home to
with the ease of fresh water entering
the waiting sea. You found comfort
in everything familiar—two bodies
preparing food, moving through rooms,
speaking the details of the day.

And you thought, both times, how
the rounding of your belly would draw
you closer. His hand placed tenderly to feel
the shifting, the gentle, awed flash
of your joining, the small, new bodies
he caught and lifted to the world. But
a new landscape surfaced—rough
and depleted and thorned—where before
there was only bright-tipped water.
And the crossing seemed impossible,
though he set a path patiently before you.
Though you wanted to go.

Your once shimmering, open arms now
swaddled and rocked; you believed
now that nights were for sleeping. Yet
with each darkness, you willed your body
to call for him. To summon that
desperate rush. But you could only
turn away and tuck those raw spots inward,
ragged and fragile and the distance
illimitable for the trying.

How you wish you could soften
the months, the years that your body
recoiled like the wounded thing it was—
aching, diminished, and spent—always
needed, always pulled. Never,
never alone in your own skin.
How you wish you could rekindle
the fervor of two beings intertwined.
How you sometimes cannot bear
to know that now someone else
is first in both of your hearts.

But you are finding something here, at last,
as the water recedes—the curve of an intact
shell glistening still on the sand. You hold it
to your ear, hear his voice in your
children’s voices. See his eyes in your
children’s eyes. You remember it, a sudden
flickering in your skin. You can walk there.
Look. When your heart breaks open,
your body is awash with stars.

 

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