Thursday, January 14, 2010

Mother & Child (Poem)

With the last poem I posted, I mentioned I've been working on a short series inspired by older sister's struggle with infertility. Here's another of those poems (which I plan to surprise her with sometime in the near future. Shh! Don't tell! Though I'm pretty sure she doesn't follow my blog and that she's pretty busy taking care of her new baby, so I think the surprise is safe), spurred on by J. Kirk Richards' Mother and Child (Yellow).

Any feedback you care to offer is more than welcome. Because, though I had my sister in mind as the primary audience when I wrote, then rewrote it (then rewrote it again), I was also trying to reach beyond that. And you, my faithful reader(s), are one indication I have of my poetry's strengths and weaknesses.

Anyway. Here it is.

* * * * *

Mother & Child

1.
A matter of geometry, these two:
mother and son bisecting desire,
trilling between syllables of miracle
on the insatiate tip of God's tongue,
plotting points of spirit-cum-body-cum-
solitude across the palate of this
Cartesian life.
                        Like Euclid pictured
space, cropped it tight, then pinned it
to his wall. Dressed the plane's blank stare
with theorems intersecting as bodies
at birth, flesh strung on strands
of one point six one eight: golden ratio
flung, lasso-like, from Gabriel's tongue
around Mary's vestal flame. Around
Elizabeth's reproach:
                              a woman
kneeling bedside, telling tissues
wrung dry as a rosary run out of beads.
As her uterus chapped like a mid-drought
riverbed: no rain to replenish
the abyss. No rain to bed dust stirred
by mourning doves’ grief. No rain to
tune her divining rod to God’s promises.

2. After the in vitro fell through
still, she prayed. Laughed with Sarah,
patron saint of laughing at God’s vows,
through deprivation’s bearing down.
Birthed one grand guffaw as Sarah
brushed hope like dust from
a ninety-year womb, strung motes
of desire on golden strands, then
willed her the rosary. Suggested
she hold tight the umbilical, telling
its folds until God gave in, said He’d
trade her maternity for that altar of a laugh
she'd knelt at ten years, stained month
after month with grief’s insatiate memory.

3.
The morning she rang with her adoption news—
late-teenage birth-mother, boy due in a month,
and her: without crib, clothes, blankets;
her guestroom of a nursery barely
broken in beyond a few days’ hospitality—
the annunciation half-raptured, half-
stalled through the line. As if she
thought the angel divining her son
from that womb of a crystal ball
would say, “He’s yours,” fingers crossed
behind the vow.
                        Not that I blame
her hesitation: Subtract seven years from
that minor denouement and you've got
the elegy she hyphenated upon hearing
we were pregnant: "That-makes-me-so-mad."
Meaning, "Cruel logic, this: sibling mathematics.
Three years I've squared flesh
by my husband's flesh. Primed numbers
with an actuary’s acumen. And
all I get? Endometriosis divided by
infertility’s stigma in the State
of 'So, How Many Kids?' While they
slipped out of contraception a month
and, voilĂ , fruit the size of my desire.
God? That-makes-me-so-mad."

I never told her I heard her post-benediction
more-petition-than-expletive. Never
confessed that her brooding slipped
through as she turned from my call
to refuge in wrath equals grief equals
me, holding the dial-tone seven years.
Counting the absence beneath her words
like abacus beads. Keeping track
of the meter until she could shape
her next line around, "He's mine."
Breath compressed, released, caressed
across the palate to relief:
                                    Zackary.
Zackary
. Name moist enough to tame
the cowlick thick, like hers,
across his pate. Enough to swaddle him
to sleep the first night—and the second,
third, fourth, fifth—he cozied into the hollow
worn beneath her breast by infertility’s slow
drip (gnawing constant as incontinent pipes
up ten years with the pinch) and slept. Slipped
in and out of infancy while she traced his
fingers tight as rosary beads across
his palm, Amen-ed, counted again. More
slowly then, as she timed her body to his:
his rise, fall, rise against her slight repose.
As she mapped his subtle topography
into the golden bloom of dawn.