The Baby Book
Poems by Robin Silbergleid
With raw candor and lyric poignancy, Robin Silbergleid transforms the psychological and physical pain of a journey through infertility into transcendent poetry in THE BABY BOOK (CavanKerry Press; November 2015; $16.00, paperback). Silbergleid decided to become a single mother, but that brave choice was thwarted by biological realities. She turned to assisted reproductive technology, but despite the advances of science, she would endure high-risk pregnancies and repeated miscarriages in her quest for a child.
“This is how it goes: say you want a baby/say you are twenty-seven & alone,/as in uncoupled, there is no father/in this equation,” Silbergleid begins “Infertility Sestina,” which ends, “This is how it goes. You wanted to be a single mother/but there is a black hole in your uterus, not a baby.” One by one, the poems in The Baby Book tell the powerful, cumulative story through a chorus of voices: the prospective mother, the doctors and nurses she encounters—never shying from the clinical, yet always grounded in the emotional ups and downs the patient endures.
There is repeated loss, but the poet/patient tries to hold onto perspective through the pain:
There is no poetry
in loss, I refuse
to indulge, to shimmer
half-light of Texas winter
where glass sparkled the floor
like precious gems. No—
the language of loss
is silence, heavy
as the forty-second week of pregnancy
In a series of poems that appear throughout the collection, the poet turns to the life and art of Frida Kahlo, who transformed her own physical and psychic pain into transcendent art. Although Silbergleid fictionalizes certain incidents, Kahlo’s paintings provide great impetus for the visual and visceral poems.
The sound filled the room like a newborn’s cry.
Frida, what I wanted to say is that I understand
why you come back to this room, a hospital in Detroit,
why the paintings pin you there to the bed like a bug on a nail,
because you’re still there.
You left pieces of yourself behind—
a blot on a sheet, some tissue in a jar—& you want them back.
(from “An Open Letter to Frida Kahlo”)
The arduous journey to conception, and the triumphant passage to motherhood after many struggles, will speak to anyone who has traveled this road, and to many others who have wrestled with their own frustrations. It speaks, too, to the doctors, nurses, and caregivers who work with those grappling with infertility, facing the daunting, often heartbreaking path to a miracle.
About Robin Silbergleid
Robin Silbergleid is the author of the memoir Texas Girl and the chapbooks Frida Kahlo, My Sister and Pas de Deux: Prose and Other Poems. Born and raised in Illinois, she holds both an MFA and PhD from Indiana University. She is currently an associate professor of English and Director of the Creative Writing Program at Michigan State University. She lives in East Lansing, Michigan, with her two children.