Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Thirteen Ways of Looking at an Interruption
by Karen Edmisten,
with apologies to Wallace Stevens
(Original lines from his poem, Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird are in italics. Obviously, all the good lines are his. The children, however, are mine.)
In the stillness of night,
The only moving thing
is a child.
I was of three minds:
sleep, motherhood, sleep.
I pretended not to care that I was awakened.
It was a small part of the pantomime.
There is my "to do" list, and then there is God's.
These are not the same thing.
A man and a woman
A man and a woman and a child
Add, mix and stir: my daughters' "to do" lists are mine.
I do not know which to prefer,
The beauty of inflections
Or the beauty of innuendoes,
The life with the child
or the thought of that life.
Chatter filled the long day
The company of children
Transformed a mood. Sometimes
for better. Sometimes ... not.
O, dear control-freak-self,
Why do you imagine a different life?
Do you not see how the life
you've been given is unspeakable gift?
I know of a tidy life,
of elegance, rhythm and control.
But I know, too, That a child is involved
In what I know.
When my children have grown,
They will mark the edge
Of one of many circles.
I will be grateful for their imprint.
At the sight of children
I used to say, "Not for me, please.
An unwelcome interruption."
But something shifted. I gave myself
Over to motherhood, and held on tight.
Once, a fear pierced me,
that I would never rise to this task,
would not die to self.
3:20 a.m.: A nightmare. She needs me more
than I need this sleep.
I rise. I go.
A child will not wait for morning.
It was nighttime all day.
I loved her and I was going to love her.
The child sat entwined in my limbs.
The interruption sweetly complete.
More about Wallace Stevens here.