These days, though mostly the nights, have become a blur. I hear the wails in my sleep, stirring beneath a tent of comfort, hoping they’ll quiet. I read them poetry after they eat, trying to avoid the whole eat/sleep cycle where babies become dependent on eating in order to sleep. I never thought I’d be the type to read poetry. Little Women or Anne of Green Gables, yes. Guess How Much I Love You, certainly. But the other day, I gravitated toward my favorite poet, Sharon Olds, and randomly opened the book to a poem titled New Mother. Sometimes I read something and think, I want that, that clarity, those words, the images and the way they’re culled together, weaved into a bright tapestry where threads don’t fall loose. These words are not mine, but I wish they were:
A week after our child was born,
you cornered me in the spare room
and we sank down on the bed.
You kissed me and kissed me, my milk undid its
burning slip-knot through my nipples,
soaking my shirt. All week I had smelled of milk,
fresh milk, sour. I began to throb:
my sex had been torn easily as cloth by the
crown of her head, I’d been cut with a knife and
sewn, the stitches pulling at my skin–
and the first time you’re broken, you don’t know
you’ll be healed again, better than before.
I lay in fear and blood and milk
while you kissed and kissed me, your lips hot and swollen
as a teen-age boy’s, your sex dry and big,
all of you so tender, you hung over me,
over the nest of the stitches, over the
splitting and tearing, with the patience of someone who
finds a wounded animal in the woods
and stays with it, not leaving its side
until it is whole, until it can run again.
I love the way Olds does that, makes me imagine someone caring for a wounded animal, nurturing it, when speaking of sex again, for the first time. I wish I could do this more in my writing. Part of me fears it, fears it will appear overwritten. In poetry it’s one thing, but in a memoir, would it seem out of place? I wish my head worked this way, leaned in these directions, for clarity and the art of it.
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