It Gets Better

Another mother poem, with a line borrowed from Erdrich





In the beginning we had to choose
to open my body to possibility

to move furniture, paint walls
fold implausibly small kimono shirts

try to shelve our uncertainty
and number our anticipated losses...

I can barely remember. The solid fact
of you clapping your hands

has overwritten those old files
leaving no trace of what was beneath.

This week your syllable is ma-ma-ma
the new name I inherited

when I wrestled with labor
and you, little blessing, slipped free.

This week's challenge at Big Tent Poetry invites us to borrow a line from another poet's work, and to use that line as a springboard into our own work. I knew immediately what I wanted to reread in search of a starting point: Heid E. Erdrich's The Mother's Tongue.

My friend Tisha (herself a pretty dazzling poet -- her chapbook Getting Out Alive is one of the most powerful collections I know) sent me a copy of The Mother's Tongue shortly after Drew was born. The third section of the book, titled "Milk Sour," features a set of sixteen poems about parenting a newborn. I read them with tiny Drew in my arms or on my shoulder or at the breast, gobsmacked by how deeply they spoke to my own experience. It felt as though Erdrich had slipped inside my heart and written the words I wasn't yet capable of setting down.

The first line of this poem is borrowed from one of those poems, a poem called "New Born." (That poem isn't online, though you can read some excerpts from the book here at Google Books.) Erdrich's poems were a big piece of the inspiration for my own mother poems -- of which, of course, this is one!

It is strange now to remember a time before Drew was a simple fact of our lives. Once upon a time we chose to open ourselves to change. We didn't know what it would be like, but we trusted that it was a leap worth taking. Now there's this little person in our lives, and I can't imagine my world without him. I remember life without him, and it was grand, but life without him now would have a great big Drew-shaped hole. Once he was a choice; now he's a reality, like gravity.

Here's a link to this week's "Come One, Come All" post so you can see what the other poets in this crowd did with the prompt.