these days

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. 



  1. Wow, she is something else, that was awesome!

    (PS and you don't have to post this but regarding the 20/20 show, our paper here in Mpls said it was all about Anna Nicole Smith's life…I hope not.)

  2. I think most people find poetry far more difficult than prose. How can it not be, when you have far fewer words with which to express far more?
    Check out the work of Evelyn Lau. Her subject matter is dark but she writes like an angel.

  3. You should be happy these words werent yours – I like yours much better. I thought this poem was vile.

  4. I agree with Emma… plus, I don't think it would be something I would want to read outloud to my babies… whether they could comprehend it or not!

    I love 'Guess How Much I Love You'- such a sweet book. :)

  5. You have your voice and Olds has hers. Neither more beautiful than the other. Stay true to yourself.

  6. I think Sharon Olds is a little oversentimental, but in general Adrienne Rich, Diane DiPrima, etc all have very powerful female imagery. I think if you can pull it off sounding strong and not being cliched, go for it. You're a writer too, its only overblown if it doesnt speak your true voice.


  8. Ok, I'm due in 2 weeks and there is NO way in hell my husband is going to come near me for a while…. ouch! I don't know whether I am turned on or off… I was cringing while reading it but couldn't stop reading… I am also laughing out loud that you read this to your babies! I think I'll stick to Shel Silverstein or Dr. Suess.

  9. Olds has her voice and you have yours. Both are beautiful. Stay true to your voice. Besides, it wouldn't work in memoir-format. It wouldn't sound real. I think we give more latitude when we read poetry.

  10. Stephanie, you HAVE written like this.
    I liked how she compared sex after birth to a wounded animal too b/c that is almost what you feel like.
    I liked this one a lot.

  11. I appreciate, as a longtime reader and sometimes poster, the honesty and sincerity you reveal when discussing your own fears regarding what you write about, and wanting to be able to write like someone else, etc. I am a big fan of your writing, and it's comforting as well as inspiring to hear about writers that you admire and your own fears.
    I feel like that is kind of hard to read and understand. So I guess what I'm trying to say is that I admire you, I always have, and I really enjoyed this post.

  12. Sorry for the double. If you can find this book, get it!
    "You Are My I Love You" by Maryann Cusimano.

    This was one of my favorites to read to my little boy.

  13. "I wish my head worked this way, leaned in these directions, for clarity and the art of it."

    For what it's worth, I think you are more than half way there already.

  14. Oh dear, your little beanie babies are so beautiful! Its too bad that my friend, Laura, who just moved to Texas, is so far away from you. Otherwise I would tell you to hire her immedately as a perma-nanny. She is the best, you can't get better. When I have children, she's moving in – she was born to be a mother. Love the kiddies, keep us posted!

  15. this is one of the most beautiful poems i have ever read & i'm going to save it. reminds me of 'vagina monologues' a bit. so raw & real. i like to write that way, when i do.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.