Expectations and Reality
Here is a poem published ten years ago in my first collection, Wit of the Staircase. It is inspired by the form of Surrealist poet, André Breton’s ‘L’union libre’.
I wrote this poem from my imagination, looking up images and descriptions of what it might feel like to have a life growing inside me.
after André Breton
Girl with the eyes of blown glass
With the limbs of a curled tadpole
With the thoughts of a startling gesture
With the breathing of a baroque organ.
Girl with the fingerprints of tiny forecasts
With teeth of tight buds and a harvest of rice
With the quickening of fists
With the heart of a fusible link
With the heart of a bicycle pump.
Maybe-boy with the eyelashes of ellipses
With the ears of fine bone drums
With the eyelids of swift translucent fish
With the fingers of quotation marks.
With the hair of hiccupping
And the ends of guitar strings
And of a shelter of bracken
With the bones of clay
With the weight of the world.
From Wit of the Staircase, 2009
There are images here which I love – the “eyelashes of ellipses” and “eyelids of swift translucent fish”, for example. But the last two lines feel awful to me and I wonder what feelings I had back then about having children. “Bones of clay” is vulnerable and soft in a terrifying way and “the weight of the world” feels devastatingly unfair.
Here’s a recent poem, this time based entirely on experience. She is a marvel and she is strong – I’ve seen and heard the four chambers of her heart beating and feel her movements deliberate and determined.
We saw you on the fourth day of spring.
Still part of me and in ghostly black and white
but there you were, like a photo of the moon.
The sonographer chatted the whole way through
recommending nappy brands and hypnobirthing.
We could see your bones, your organs and eyeballs.
You are beautiful and perfect and even if you weren’t
you still would be. When we stepped outside
jasmine was everywhere, new blossom
on the otherwise bare twigs of winter. The next time we see you
you’ll be entering the world, exiting the world you’ve made inside me
and joining this marvellous place of birdsong and magnolia.
Each day the temperature rises gently, our body swells
ripples of your quickening strengthen your underwater dance
beating heart, undeniable presence of being.