Monday, April 27, 2009

Linda Sillitoe: "A Lullaby in the New Year"

Since I missed posting yesterday, you'll get two poems today, one from Linda Sillitoe, "A Lullaby in the New Year", which won an AML in award in 1981 (alongside her short story, "Demons") and the other from someone else.

"Lullaby" is an accomplished sonnet that explores the relationship between a mother and her "loud and little daughter" (line 8), a "week" old infant (1), as far as I can tell, frazzled (it seems) by life outside the womb. The poet-mother's efforts at comfort---"rocking" (3), "kiss[ing] (7), "cradl[ing]" (12), feeding---do nothing to calm the child's "wary / nerves" (3-4). And yet, as mother tells child, "I tell you this, [...] / you have now all there is: familiar dark, / a blanket's wings without, warm milk within, / balanced with your head in my hand's cup / in a second cradle of flesh and sound" (9-12). Both must learn to accept this new world, familiar and dark as it essentially is. Both must learn to speak this new "language" (2) of connection and intimacy.

What I like most about this poem is how to calls mind the endless nights I've spent rocking daughters who just couldn't calm themselves, who were struggling with adjustment to life in a wide world. I like the images of closeness and intimacy the poet uses to portray the mother's arsenal against discomfort, fear, and rage. And I like how it doesn't end necessarily resolved, but leaves us with the picture of a patient and nurturing mother struggling to help her new child "accept" (14) life in the world.

And that's where I leave you for now.