Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Thirteen Ways of Looking at an Interruption

 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
Are one.
A man and a woman and a child
Are one.
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.


Sara said...

That's beautiful! My husband is a big Wallace Stevens fan, but I find him incomprehensible, usually. I love your re-write!

Jennifer said...

Love, love, love. This is brilliant Karen. III especially.

Doreen said...

Lovely beyond words...Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Or a conclusion from another poem by Stevens:

We make a dwelling in the evening air,
In which being there together is enough.

Karen Edmisten said...

Wow, Atticus. That's a perfect ending.

Tabatha said...

That was a super idea -- to mix his words and yours. It's a great exercise for you, and it makes something new and fun for us to read. Very nice.

tanita✿davis said...

Wow. You're making me rethink the whole "no kids, no, thank-you," thing. This is really beautiful.

jama said...


Karen, this is brilliant and beautiful. You amaze me :)!

Ruth said...

Beautiful! I love it!

Melanie Bettinelli said...

Beautiful. Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird is an old friend of mine. I like it dressed up in its new clothes. Inspired.

Takes me right back to my senior year of college and comprehensive exams and the gleeful rewrites we did of all the poetry we'd memorized. Except ours were much less profound and usually involved beer.

Laura said...

Hi Karen,

I love your juxtaposition! Great job!

Laura Evans
all things poetry

Anonymous said...

Oh my goodness. This is stunning. I'm so impressed.

Mary Lee said...

Wow. Thirteen times Wow.

Andromeda Jazmon said...

Oh Karen. This made me tear up. I love the Wallace Stevens poem and I love the way you have built on it in such a tender, poignant way. Stanza V really gets me, but my favorite lines are these:

"It was nighttime all day.
I loved her and I was going to love her."

This poem will stay with me. My 5 year old was up with a high fever last night. Maybe that's why I'm so emotional about this!

Karen Edmisten said...

Thanks, everyone, for your very kind words.

Cathy said...

Had to sneak over to read this. Loved it!


Karen Edmisten said...

Cathy, I just found your comment in the "awaiting moderation" file -- sorry! And thank you! :)