As the world awakens you sit straightbacked at your desk. Coffee
brews, and breakfast. The smell wafts up the stairs.
Coffee, the computer, maybe a pen. If you were Billy Collins
details like these would unfurl into something magical
each blue Bic pen entering the realm of the symbolic:
French croissants and the curve of the moon. For now
greatness is as far off as the moon in the sky. The question
how to write a poem. Consult Donald Hall, Mary Oliver
interrogate all the authorities and still, here you are,
just a young poet struggling, a handful of syllables.
K sticks in your throat. Kestrel, kingfisher.
Line by pathetic line, the poem limps along, a hard labor. This
metaphor comes from the only place that matters, the baby
nestled in its mother’s pelvis, the midwife urging the body to
open. You can hear her moaning oh-oh-oh-oooh,
perineum stretching, the push splitting her in two. No
quest here, no Cantos, no Paterson, not even a Prelude, or
Richard Hugo’s Triggering Town. Reproduction, not
sex or romance. It’s embryos in petri dishes,
trigger shots of gonadotropin, test after test after test.
Ultimately maybe that’s all we can ever ask for, some
vials of blood, dark tubes rolled in the nurse’s hands.
When you’re stuck—like now—you go back to conception
x meets x and nine months later, a girl is born.
Your hands are greedy, you want to hold her, the camera
zooms in on the young mother’s face and stops
zooms out to the hospital room, the snow on the windows,
yellow balloons, vases flush with daffodils. You haven’t had s-ex
in so long you’ve forgotten how the body moves, the creamy
white of your skin against your lover’s. Wordsworth writes of the
vale, the river, the mountain, nature as the source of the sublime—
under the poet’s spell the world becomes metaphor
tenor humming against vehicle like a bird ready to take flight.
Still, you sit here, pecking out words, letting the syllables
roll in your mouth like stones. It’s that flat gray of winter
quiet when nothing ever happens, when you wait
patiently, for a delivery truck, for the stick to turn blue, ping of
ovulation when anything is possible, a spark in the ovary,
nestling embryo, nights when you dream of possibility,
menses marked on the calendar in pink, your wait
longer than you ever dreamed. You fiddle, try your hand at
kyrielle, villanelle, sonnet, sestina, you’ll try anything.
Just start. Jump right in. Don’t think too hard.
Infertility begets infertility. Remember this in the
Harmony Room, where the doctor
guides your legs into the stirrups, says you’ll
feel my touch, and she is so tender
every nerve in your body begins to hum and
despite everything, despite months of failure and rejection, this
could work. In two weeks the stick could turn
blue, in nine months, a baby, a book
a single-celled wish. Amen.
From The Baby Book by Robin Silbergleid
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