From the Nursery


After a while, I stopped asking whether my child would survive,
although everything I asked in its stead
could be heard as this question.

Her body, not ready for the bare earth,
and like a nude soul, suffered each thing
with an intuition impossibly more acute
than what her body could carry out
in practice.

I must have seemed, at times, almost unconcerned
by what the clinicians said—
each small, survivable diagnosis touched me only as the sleeve
of a passing stranger.

When I looked up from her hospital crib
to see the wider world, could I help it
if I saw a war?

I can sense you are poised to accuse me now
of that sentimental watershed we call new motherhood:

Because my child was threatened, I too quickly conclude
from my single-mindedness that no one should be threatened,
that we shouldn’t kill those asleep in their bedclothes
somewhere we haven’t heard of, somewhere
foreign, a desert—an infant, a mother, many cousins.

I concede, it was an emotional time.
I felt I had been dropped from a considerable height
where the future remained, as it always had been,
stridently unknown; it was simply the pitch that had changed.

Now I look out from the nursery window—
first a birch tree, then rowhomes, the city, the country, the world—
still the war widens, wide as a prehistoric mouth,
wide as desperate slander.

If you wish, call me what the postpartum have long been called:
tired mother, overprotective bear,
open sore,
a body made sensitive
to the scent of fire or fume,

just as your mother would have been
when you were born, you who are alive
to read this now.

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