Pain~I do not think it means what you think it means.

https://i0.wp.com/school.discoveryeducation.com/clipart/images/scalpel.gifI was idly flipping through the latest issue of Parents when I came upon this:

For decades, doctors believed that babies didn’t feel pain, based on flawed studies showing that sleeping infants didn’t respond to light pinpricks. In fact, until the 1980s, many newborns who had heart surgery received no pain medication — they were only given paralytic drugs that forced them to lie completely still, though fully aware, as their chests were opened.

To which I say, WHAT??! Why is it that we need studies to tell us what should be perfectly, staggeringly obvious? As late as the 1980s!! We’re not talking the dark ages here. An appalling reminder that you can’t take anything for granted — it would never have even occurred to me that my baby wouldn’t receive anesthesia for surgery. He would now, but just 20 years ago…!

I was expecting innocuous articles on sharing and finger foods, and instead I’ll be forever haunted by the image of a baby strapped to an operating table, paralyzed, eyes open in horror, as his chest is cracked open.

But I can’t end a post with that, it’s just too awful, so here’s a poem from Lisa Russ Spaar’s collection, Satin Cash, that captures something of how I’m feeling right now:

You, with Gold Leaf

I grow impatient with spirit as alibi
despite each night, ecclesiastical,

more and more sky, the costal trees
in fierce defrayal,

fretting with kohl branches
the edges of the parking lot.

I stand by my car,
night a translucent, colostrum blue

of goodbye, & cocklebur Venus
reveals to me the truth

of your body as light source,
burning by mercy inside me still.

Further adventures with eczema.

I took Aidan, now nearly 4 1/2 months old, to the dermatologist today, and he was duly impressed by the baby’s poor scaly state. It’s really awful. He’s not sleeping more than 2 hours together, he’s so uncomfortable. And he looks dreadful. Except for those brightly serious blue eyes of his — when you look in those eyes you cease to notice all the scabby patches in which they’re set.

We now have a game plan, a course of action, and the tools with which to proceed. Which includes a shower cap. I’ll try to post a picture soon, because you haven’t lived until you’ve seen a baby lounging in a shower cap.

He already looks better tonight. But I hold out not an iota of hope for a good night’s sleep.

Last night’s reading was fantastic. Standing room only. Kerry, a former blues singer, read with a formidable confidence, and even treated us to a snatch of song. Joseph interspersed serious and affecting poems with hilarious entertainers like “Throne”, about sharing a bathroom with a woman.

Then Genie took the microphone and shifted the tone again — my favorite poem of hers dealt with her fall from a window as a youngster — she was saved by the belt of her robe! And finally, Dorianne. When she read the title poem from her collection, Facts about the Moon, the room was riveted.

And we sold every copy of that book, too. In fact, we sold a lot of books last night for the poets (poets bring the books, we handle the sales) — which makes me very happy. We don’t have the funds to pay our readers yet, so it’s nice to be able to make them money in that capacity at least.

The following poem is from Kerry’s chapbook, From a Burning Building, published by March Street Press — dealing with motherhood, a disastrous marriage, it’s one little firebomb of a book!

To One Six Month Old,
Then Another

You are now expected to know what I mean,
and do not need to answer in plain English.
Understand, it’s time for you to speak. Our bodies
barely disentangled, we will throw our hearts
into call and answer. Not thinking of a future
where your love of me becomes a skin
you will shed and grow again one thousand times.
I will follow you, hunting wildly for traces.
I will lead, leaving my own markings for when
you cry out, as you will, and singing softly,
I come back to carry you along.

Ho Ho Ho!

Still pregnant.

But after 4 days of antibiotics, I feel blissfully better, enough to go to my friend Lea’s house last night for a holiday hoe-down. Great fun!

Jamming in the kitchen.
Jamming in the kitchen.
Lea & I by her Christmas tree.
Lea & I by her Christmas tree.

Lance and Vincent came, too, but left early once Vincent’s fascination with all the lit candles could no longer be distracted by butterfly crackers and cupcakes.

Gratuitous cute Vincent picture in which he dons Lea's rhinestone red reading glasses.  He cried most wretchedly when he had to leave them behind.
Gratuitous cute Vincent picture in which he dons Lea's rhinestone red reading glasses. He cried most wretchedly when he had to leave them behind.

Darn good thing Lea lives just a few blocks away — it’s still snowing! I took advantage of a small break in the storm to walk home from the party last night — there were plenty of rides to be had, but what a lovely night, and I didn’t have far to go, and the crisp winter air was refreshing after all this illness — and let’s not overlook the (remote) possibility that this little exertion could help kickstart labor.

Okay, no luck. But for the first time it truly felt like the holidays yesterday. We actually have our very first Christmas tree this year (previous dwellings were too small to accommodate anything more than a festive plant.) (But it is sparsely decorated with colored lights and a few bamboo ornaments. Perhaps Vincent & I will work on that tomorrow after we go to the prenatal appointment.)

Lance’s older sons, Cassidy & Morgan, both came over in the early afternoon and helped him put up the new baby’s sky basket — a new configuration was called for now that we live in an entirely new place since Vincent’s birth.

I doubted and worried, but Lance had a plan, and it works. (Pictures will be forthcoming once the sky basket’s new resident arrives.)

Oh, and my spoils from the Yankee Swap last night? — a tin of Lindt chocolate truffles! Who would dare take chocolate from the pregnant woman? It’s the little victories, yes?

Lisa Russ Spaar.

Forgive the silence — our household is utterly entrenched in illness, and it appears that it will remain so for the immediate future as a virulent cold virus holds us hostage.

Cover Image
In the meantime, I’ve been reading Lisa Russ Spaar’s Satin Cash, which contains such lush, smart language — I spent Vincent’s too-brief naptime letting these poems wash over me.
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One example:
Womb
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What antecedent
for this intramural void,

my native, deep-seated
well — null, untenanted,

sulking place, finger-
slip of truancy, of minus —

if not this cave above:
bludgeon of boudoir stars,

chivalric piñata,
quixotic hourglass

infinitely contracting:
negative, vernacular, lone?

Home. Every day. Small nuggets.

Yesterday, Vincent & I went downstairs to check the mail, and he, because he’s fun that way, locked the door behind us.  Hence I discovered how ludicrously easy it is to pick the lock of our apartment.  Good thing we own nothing worth stealing.

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Being home so much is very odd, but now we’re both sick I haven’t had much of an opportunity to use this time well.  I’m measuring my days in balled-up tissues and cold cups of tea.

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It does, however, give me far too much time to dwell on all my overdue submissions, and where the heck are they, and why won’t anyone respond to my emails.  Not altogether helpful, but I don’t currently have the brain capacity to actually write, as evidenced by this feeble post, so I’m giving myself permission to obsess.

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For those of you who care & are keeping track of such things, I’m now 38 weeks, and the baby has dropped.  So there’s progress, at least!

“I Want to be Careful.”

That’s what Vincent says when he’s about to do something unadvisable. I should’ve remembered that: sometimes what you get is the exact opposite of what you wished for. I said, I could use a break from my child. Instead, my poor boy has come down with another nasty flu bug, and I’ve been home with him the last two days. I’ll spare you the details, but it’s amazing the iron stomach parenthood gives you.

But Vincent is so sorrowful and lethargic, so easygoing even as he’s suffering, it would be monstrous of me to complain.

"Woe woe woe is me."

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More from Poem, Revised:

...I worked to get to know it. I worked to hear what it had to say. When you revise a poem, think of yourself as listening to it. Strain your ears and screw off your own chatter. For the longest time, I thought I knew that “Lottery” was about despair. Then the poem showed up on my doorstep of its own accord, and I glimpsed something bigger.
–Rasma Haidri

I often find that the poem is smarter than I am. The poem usually waits to reveal what it knows to me in its own time. The poem becomes something far outside me; in fact, I often feel that I am just its servant doing its crazy bidding.
–Lucy Anderton

While the essays differ in the mechanics of revision, and include plenty on that, these excerpts illustrate a perspective most of the poets share. I don’t subscribe to the whole “I’m just a typist transcribing the instructions of my muse” philosophy of writing; my poems are my poems, good and bad. But what these excerpts mean to me is that sometimes you have to get out of your own way. You limit how much you can say in a poem if you can’t get beyond your preconceived idea of “what it’s about”.

NaPoWriMo Draft 9.

Vincent could be & has been worse, but darling boy is still unwell. In between the interludes of obvious illness, he is variously rambunctious and lethargic. Irony of ironies: Nature has chosen this Week of the Influenza Outbreak to spring into Full Spring with gusto.

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The moving-on-now-revise-later aspect of NaPoWriMo does not come naturally to me, but instead of working on “Gravity,” yesterday’s poem, tonight I finished another draft. More on that later. But in this vein of drafts: for the last few months I’ve been slowly exploring a fascinating book, Black Lightning: Poetry-in-Progress, edited by Eileen Tabios (Temple University Press, 1998), unfortunately out of print now. I bought mine at this great used bookstore in Hatfield, Troubadour Books, nearly two years ago.

It’s a daunting book, oversized. The editor, with a selection of poets (such as Timothy Liu and Kimiko Hahn, to mention the two that especially struck me), explores the revision process of several poems, from actual drafts, first second third etc, sometimes composites of several, to the final poem, discussing the choices within each poem with the poet! It’s an utterly unique fly-on-the-wall view of a variety of poetic processes — something I find infinitely interesting — and it’s no overnight read, either! Like most writer-types, I suspect I’m strange & perhaps even doing everything wrong, and it reminds me that every process is a singular one. And following these amazing creative minds as they revise is both amazingly reassuring and revelatory.

On to my draft. Per usual, for a short time only:


[…gone…]

In which the plague inevitably spreads & Marie somehow writes NaPoWriMo Draft 8.

Thank you, yes, I am improving at last, but horribly, Vincent has caught it. From me. Which means I didn’t get it from him, and I’m a bad mama to have intimated that I might have done so in my last post.

I am happy to report, however, that so far, though he’s plenty sick, he does seem to be perhaps recovering quicker. Shhh. I didn’t say that. Bad mama squared, to have just jinxed poor Vincent. Criminy!

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Unfortunately, all this sickness hasn’t helped my writing schedule one bit. But today I was thinking about Rilke’s Duino Elegies, the tenth one in particular, whose ending talks about the wonder of when a happy thing falls — that’s always been one of my favorite lines. I started thinking about wonder, and falling, and finally got through this draft. It’s definitely a draft, I’m not entirely happy with it, but it’s not the worst thing I’ve ever written by far either. If you have any thoughts, feel free to share them with me.

For a short time:


[…gone…]

Days of Gatorade & Crackers.

These are the days of Gatorade and crackers.  These are the days of Peptobismol.  These are most definitely the days of “Please let me make it to the bathroom in time!”  I have been felled by the flu.

Can I just say that before I birthed a child, I can’t remember ever having once been stricken with the flu, ever?

My strict diet is being enforced by Lance, who actually took away my coffee this morning and dumped it into the sink.  A quarantine has also been put into effect.

So hey, maybe I’ll be able to catch up a bit with my NaPoWriMo writing…