soft domestic prowling of goodness

March 16, 2009

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I recently read this lovely Sharon Olds poem and felt it resonate. I feel I’ve experienced a lot of what I wanted to before starting a family—in other words I was ready for this challenge, and have no regrets about having a baby right now in my life—but for all of the amazingness of motherhood there are those moments where the burden of responsibility weighs heavily. Life expands; lifestyle condenses.

When Our Firstborn Slept In

My breasts hardening with milk—little seeps
leaking into the folded husband
hankies set into the front curves
of the nursing harness—I would wander around
the quiet apartment when her nap would last a little
longer than usual. When she was awake, I was
purpose, I was a soft domestic
prowling of goodness—only when she slept
was I free to think the thoughts of one
in bondage. I had wanted to be someone—not just
someone’s mom, but someone, some one.
Yet I know that this work that I did with her
lay at the heart of what mattered to me—was
that heart. And still there was a part of me
left out by it, as if exposed on a mountain
by mothering. And when she slept in,
I smelled the husks of olive rind
on that slope, I heard the blue knock
of the eucalyptus locket nut, I
tasted the breath of the wolf seeking
the flesh to enrich her milk, I saw the
bending of the cedar under the sea
of the wind—while she slept, it was as if
my pierced ankles loosed themselves
and I walked like a hunter in the horror-joy
of the unattached. Girl of a mother,
mother of a girl, I paced, listening,
almost part-fearing, sometimes, that she might have stopped
breathing, knowing nothing was anything, for me,
next to the small motions as she woke,
light and wind on the face of the water.
And then that faint cry, like a
pelagic bird, who sleeps in flight, and I would
turn, pivot on a spice-crushing heel,
and approach her door.

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