Thursday, April 21, 2016

A Month of Favorite Poetry, Day #19

I love this poem.  It's a sweet and sentimental expression of what it feels to carry a child.  I've written several poems about my own experience, but this one really touched my heart.

It's a precious thing to give birth.  And for that reason, I hold this poem close to my heart.


After You Were Born, My Body Missed You
by Jesse Lee Kercheval

Having you inside me,
daughter, was like
swallowing a porpoise
who happened to turn cartwheels,
a tiny drummer who beat time
on the taut skin
of my belly.
It was startling, unexpected,
feeling movement
where none had been before.

Having you inside me,
taught me life cannot
be scheduled.
No putting your birth
in my daily planner.
Your due date, I soon learned,
the only day
you were unlikely to appear.
Letting go
of all that daily order
was first like floating,
then like falling
from a great height,
trusting fate, or God,
old parachute maker,
to bring me down on grass.

Taught me too
how strongly biology
prefers the future.
Don't worry about the baby,
my doctor said, she takes
the iron she needs,
the calcium.  Take your pills,
it's you who are anemic,
whose bones could thin.
She laughed.  Just one
of those little sacrifices
every mother makes.

And why not?  What better use
of bones than sacrament?
I imagined my body
as a steaming bowl of carrots.
Eat, I'd say.
I made these just for you.

Then you were born,
the doctor handing you
around the curtain.
I stared.  You stared.
Both of us surprised to see
a stranger's face
on this person
we knew in other ways
so well.  Like meeting
a lost uncle
at a family reunion.
Hello, I've heard so much
about you.  And here you are.


from The Gift of Experience, The Atlantic Review 10th Anniversary Anthology, Spring/Summer 2005

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