Saturday, July 27, 2019

How Could You Know

Chores have become privilege.
How could you know
I don’t want dinner
made; I want to make dinner. Let me be
productive in a visible
way; I want to do something,
anything, other
than hold the baby,
just for an hour, ten minutes, one.
Let me be something more than
a body in service of a body,
an energy spent.
You would never say
I have it easy but there’s a voice
in both our heads
saying it over and over.
No, I don’t want to work full-time.
No, I don’t want to outsource.
I am talking about the economy of mind;
I am talking about the politics of being
in a new state,
an alien planet,
a wild west where touch
is the native language and clocks melt
back into oil and sand.


Everyone is obsessed with sleeping through the night.
No one asks
is the night something to be slept through?
Everyone talks about SIDS,
another word for we-don’t-know-why -some-babies-just-
I don’t know. It’s hard to string together all the pieces
into a web that becomes a shield against
bad luck and unfavorable outcomes.

Everyone is gambling all of the time.
Well, I am too.
I’m not saying my gut
is right, I’m just saying
it will learn when it makes mistakes, I’m just saying
that I hope putting my baby in bed with me
is not the kind of mistake that is fatal and yes,
I do wonder sometimes,

but it doesn't keep me up at night. In fact,
I get great sleep,
though not the kind you’re thinking of.
You can’t compare apples
with intermittent wakings. Most nights
I have no idea what happened; I wake up
happy and the baby wakes up full,
which seems like a winning hand to me.

First Poem

I am terrified of writing my first poem as a mother.
You, my love, are a little like God:
indescribable, worthy to be praised. I am terrified
of sucking your perfection down
into the thin crooked realm of what I can say.
Maybe if I knew all six thousand five hundred
living languages, the story would be different.
Maybe I would speak of you boldly, compare you
to the right kind of Alaskan snow and the Japanese joy
of walking in dappled sun. But as it is,
I repeat like a proud fool—knowing it’s the wrong word,
knowing you are more and less and other than it—
you are perfect,
you are perfect,
you are perfect.

Full of Water

Some days I wake up full of water.
I don’t know where it comes from—dreams, 
presumably. My guess is it seeps into the folds

of my brain over hours and waking years,
entering imperceptibly through my ears
and eyes and under fingernails.

You look at me so carefully,
like I’m about to break. But I am an ocean;
I hold unfathomable depths.

Since You Asked

What's on my mind is the fact that I have lost track of my animal. Something frightened her; like a pregnant cat she is hiding under the porch somewhere, someone’s porch, I don’t know whose, because I certainly don’t have one. My mind has been trying very hard to keep Fear out, but there it is, like a flashlight shining darkness, swinging this way and that. Ridiculous. The strings that bind us are so flimsy, no, seem so flimsy, I feel them tightening and breaking all the time, extending backwards and forwards and sideways. And I think about the way I moved through childhood, I think like a therapist about myself, I lean down to the darkness beneath the porch and I tell the cat: It is not your fault. That you are hiding. That the cats you loved when you were young were snapped strings. What’s on my mind is that my baby is all right but what if he’s not? And he is living inside me and there is no way to know whether there are non-reassuring signs. That’s what they call them. Non-reassuring signs of life. Obviously that’s not what you want. I will not know whether the signs are reassuring or not until Monday, when they will take science in hand and point it at me (like a flashlight, hah) and tell me whether they are reassured or non-reassured. And I wish that one assurance was enough, blessed assurance. What’s on my mind is where is the line between faith and taking things for granted? I have become a yoga lover and a chiropractor person and almost a vegan and everyone saw it coming but me. Saw the granola coming out of my ears. People have always thought I was a vegetarian. People I ate steak with. How could they know my grandfather had nightmares of slaughterhouses, wouldn’t touch a dead animal, loved the SPCA more than God? And I have grown up into his aversions and his love of avocados. What’s on my mind is how self-care is a special kind of burden. My husband says maybe art is a way to receive love rather than give it. He started cooking for me this week but then he says he can’t trust that I can take care of myself. He says what’s my plan for protein? And meanwhile our baby inside me seems not be growing; my womb has stalled as if in protest of pregnancy. Perhaps she is tired. And it’s like I can hear a voice say What have you done?

My Dream of Disappearing

When I met God
in my bedroom
one night, I thought
he was going to fulfill
my dream of disappearing.

He talked
about seeds falling,
cracking, about
thorns and the dusty road
to Golgotha,
the place of skull.
He praised his beheaded cousin
for becoming less.

I thought we spoke
the same language.
I thought he meant
I would lose myself
shed this skin,
this failing heart,
the cry of bones,

But as I waited
for him to bless me,
make me small
and free
as nothingness, he took
my dream in his big hands
and pressed
and squeezed
and crushed
till there was nothing
left between his palms.

Old Men

Never underestimate the lives of old men
sitting on park benches. You will be tempted
to add up several to make a single
purposeful pedestrian, but you will have counted wrong,
and yes, there is a wrong way to count.
Do not try to divide the life of the man sitting
on the bench on the concrete divider between the two sides
of Lenox Avenue.
You can never understand it well enough to analyze,
not even if you were a mathematician
or an anthropologist, or any other manner of expert
in reality. I warn you
to watch yourself; I implore you to hold your tongue
in one hand, embrace mystery with the other. 
You see an old man
sitting on a bench.
You see nothing.


He said my body is a boat,
my soul its passenger, but I
am a holy ship
on a holy train. You see,

my love, we’re heading to Parkchester
together, though all you know
now is how warm
your bed is,

how loud
and mysterious the sea.
You can’t understand
that God is your neighbor,
or that we, enfolded in one another
like Russian dolls, live in Him.
You can’t know that I carry you

Our train flies under the river
northbound in the dark.

Gods Leap Booming

We are all progenitors of wild imaginations:
gods leap booming from our skulls, fully grown,
and begin ordering us around,

and we obey.
I just want to give birth in a dark room.
I don’t need soldiers at my bedside.

I just want enough silence to hear
my heart beat, want this child to be treated
like a child, not a tumor,

my pelvis to be understood
as more than a design flaw, my primal state
as if it weren’t a lapse of judgment,

a weakness, a mistake.
I’ll be sensitive, yes—I will sense everything;
my uterus will expand to fit the universe

for an hour or two and I will include
everything, including you, including your fear.
I just want Zeus and all his friends

to wage their wars somewhere I can’t see them
till it’s over, or stand patiently outside the door
and wait their turn.

I Needed

I needed you to take care of me
by which I meant leave
yourself in the doorway for a few days
and stroke my hair

and you did
try, you fell asleep with your hand on my head

and in the morning I smiled
and the smile must have said
I’m fine, because

you called yourself over
started telling me

stories, hands flying, painting pictures
of the world inside your head
that wild globe with its shadows and flags
and orchards and industries
and oceans and oceans