First off, apologies for my silence of late. I have decided to write shorter but hopefully more frequent posts, which many of you will probably be glad to hear! I realised I’d been feeling the pressure to produce nothing but erudite reflections, but sometimes I think it’s important to just shut up and write, as Natalie Goldberg says. My writer friend Lou-Ice’s (Louise Halvardsson) blog is an excellent example of tracking one’s life as a writer (or whatever it is you do), illustrating with well-chosen photographs (taken by herself usually) and inspiring others with the way you bring creativity into life. When I’ve got to grips with my new camera phone I’ll be adding some of my own creations!
As Winter Solstice approaches with the reflections on dark and light that it brings, I wanted to share a beautiful event I was lucky enough to be part of last week: the Mothers Uncovered ‘Night of Splendour‘ party and cabaret to celebrate three years of this amazing supportive network for mothers, which one participant remarked ‘ does more for the psychological well-being of mums than the health profession does throughout pregnancy and beyond.‘ The cabaret featured extracts from ‘The Naked Truth’ monologues and ‘Your Stories’. I have to admit I was in tears at several points of the evening as women bravely shared their (and others’) experiences of the light and dark sides of motherhood and every shade in between.
The very hip band ‘YuMammaMeeMamma‘ had me in stitches in the second half as they sang songs interspersed by hilarious mother-to-mother dialogue that was instantly recognisable – and skirting the edges of provocative at times – and got us all to join in singing ‘We Rock the Pants of Motherhood’ (in harmonies!) at the end. It was so exhilirating to experience motherhood as something to be proud of, something to celebrate and recognise. Instead of an aspect of life that is very much stuck at the margins of society (although of course, I didn’t notice any non-mothers, or indeed non-women, at the event, other than the organiser’s husband).
I read my poems ‘Three Month Mark’, ‘Untitled’, and ‘The Idea of an Aeroplane’ – all stage debuts. (Thanks Lou-Ice and Bernadette Cremin for valuable feedback during the draft stage of ‘The Idea of an Aeroplane’). It was an excellent opportunity to narrow the gap between my creative life and te day to day reality of motherhood. The poems represent three different ‘stages’ of my motherhood journey thus far (all three years of it!), and I’d like to share them. The first one, rather obviously, was written when I was pregnant; the second, when Jude was two, and the last one very recently. So, here goes!
Three month mark (okay, so the picture is of my full term bump!)
is the three month mark of our baby’s conception
when our blind cells joined, oblivious.
We drank vodka cocktails,
spilt sex conversations
until my breasts ached walking
down the stairs for the thirteenth pee,
and I nearly hit you in a hormonal rage.
Now my Buddha belly grows rotund
with this creature
we created accidentally-on-purpose.
Friends tell me stories
of three-month-point abortions
and miscarried twins
In six months I will meet you
I don’t know what you will look like
or how I will love you
If you will have imperfections
grown in the womb
or pre-destined by genetics
If I will still love you, then.
You are my consolation in the form of a bump
a secret I stroke and hold with a smile
at odd moments of the day,
when work dulls my shiny joy
and the pointless commute wears me down.
The shiver along my scalp
like a bolt out of nowhere.
As you, angel not yet incarnate,
unfurl your blameless wings inside me.
Holding my boy & he’s breathing.
Something the Victorians wouldn’t take for granted.
But I’m thinking of deadlines on essays
and time running short,
The refuse workers strike
& how rubbish is piling up in the streets.
I’m holding my son,
his warm cheek under my armpit
how little space he takes up,
so new on this planet.
But his footprint will grow
with him, & soon he’ll use more
resources than 10 Guatamalans.
It’s strange how,
when he’s asleep, lying on the pink-
crayon-streaked sheet beside me,
I miss him.
Even as his breath descends
into his chest: rise, fall, rise, fall.
And his feet do that last twitch
before I can do a stealth
manoeuvre & escape.
I wait, like a clock with a stiff second arm,
for the day to release me into my private self:
The self that knows words
like ‘aver’, who guards her evening from the warp
of days given over to chilly playgrounds
and overheated libraries
where today, he ran away from me,
& panic stilled my blood.
Now emptiness rises in my throat to
you must live, you must stay,
you must stay
The Idea of An Aeroplane
An aeroplane streaks blue sky above,
Leaving only trails of white.
I know inside it will be stuffy
With plastic food,
But still there is the longing to
Forwards, to Thailand
With its spices and space,
Or backwards to South Africa,
With its barren air of possibility
Every time I hear that
Distant thrum of a plane’s engine,
I look up and am temporarily gone.
Even if I am walking on green earth
And birdsong is caressing my ears
With fresh sound.
Even though I’m walking with your
Hand clasped in mine
And even though the russet gold leaves
Are crunching decisively under each step
And even though I feel
As vast as the remembered sky,
And know that I am alive,
And here, and real
The idea of an aeroplane
Can turn my head