Twenty years of song
The sap begins to rise

Imperfect poetry: nursing, remembered


the first weeks were endless:
my nipples sore, your mouth
lined with ground glass

bowls of salt water
balanced on the tabletop
an astringent immersion

my breasts as raw
as my bruised heart,
overflowing without warning

would we survive three months
the hard candy I worried
beneath my tongue

sometimes I try to remember
the heavy prickle of milk
on the verge of letting down

but those doors are closed
and the key is lost
or packed away

with the newborn clothes
I no longer believe
you could ever have worn

as inaccessible
as the woman I used to be
before you made me new

This week's imperfect prose prompt at Emily Wierenga's blog is Mother. (And here's her post on the theme -- with links at the end to posts by others who've written to the prompt.)

The prompt sent me back to reread the first mother poem I wrote, during the first week of my new life as a mother: El Shaddai (Nursing Poem). And then rereading that sparked a new poem. (I know it's an imperfect prose prompt, not a poetry prompt, but it inspired a poem -- what can I say.)

It's easy to get so caught-up in this moment of mothering -- the joys and vagaries of parenting a three-year-old -- that I forget what it was like, what I was like, when this whole wild journey began. How overwhelming it was to go from childless adult life to parenting a newborn. The things which hurt in all four worlds -- physically, emotionally, intellectually, spiritually.

I don't want to forget how hard it was, or how miraculous. (And it was both of those things. Deeply.) I love this life with a rambunctious boy who climbs and jumps and laughs and plays with trucks and marbles and sings the alphabet to me at night in lieu of the lullaby I used to sing to him. But we couldn't have gotten here without going through there.

And I suspect that my sense of God is forever changed by the experiences of pregnancy and parenthood -- especially early parenthood. All of our parental metaphors speak to me in a different way now than they did before. I can't help wondering: if becoming a parent deepened and opened me, in the deep ways which I know it did, can we imagine that the same is true for God?

(And -- I can't resist putting in a plug for this, even though it's not out yet! -- if you like this poem, stay tuned for the forthcoming publication of Waiting to Unfold, my collection of first-year mother poems, which is coming out from Phoenicia later this year.)