Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
Three Poems: Mother to Father

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The Moment of Labor

You hold a white dove in your hand
as the leaves fall around you, delicate,
and your eyes, the burning hazel
in the trees, search for me, intimate,
the kind of open that comes from cracking
shells to reveal the inside flesh,
the meaty nut that must be eaten.
And I, on the other side of the window,
of the world, pretend to know the wind
that surrounds you now, in late autumn.
You wait -- for your child to be born,
for your father to die again, as he does
each year, when the night is long
and all the leaves have fallen.

You cannot see me clearly on the inside,
in the dusk. You wonder at the gourd I carry,
the great water, the strong husk. I am a pumpkin
you cannot cut. You must wait
for my burst that signals the stepping
into your father's place. To be bare
like this, it is the hardest trial for a man.

And then, a noise -- the splitting of the glass
from its frame -- and my voice -- calling --
It's time -- and you are once again
in motion, no less frightened
but at least not standing still, as you move
to meet me at the door, as your footsteps
take you back to what you almost missed.


The earth is not a mother
who sits, still, and lets us
drink, quietly. She thinks
of all the flowers yet to
birth, the winds to
welcome, the mountains to
move and rivers to
ribbon, as we suckle,
with vigor and hunger,
gulping while she
bides her time.

I, too, am that mother,
although through seasons
I have denied it, as the sun
tipped back toward the waist
of the world, and I sang the song
of breasting, what comes after birth
and the break of internal embrace.

You, my love, have been
more honest, but now I can
sing the words you have
been saying: You're not the only one
with mixed emotion.
You're not the only ship
out on this ocean.

Here I am, balancing
legs and arms as I move
in place, clearing the air
for my own growing.

And the wind welcomes me
back to my body, as our daughter
weans and walks away,
and we are left dancing
to the sound at the center
of the earth, pin pricks on our skin
as we lean into each other again.

Walk Through the Room of Your Beloved's Difference

His loud chewing. His five boxes of cereal. Always more than enough.
He provides for his family and himself. His clean pants. His tucked shirt.
His belt. The trim help of his waist. The place you lay your head to rest
and hear the late night cereal gurgling. His sneakers. His running.
His discipline. His coming when he said he would come. He is the one
person you have always been able to rely upon. The child within you
lies upon his stability like a mountain lies on the earth. He is your beloved.
The one you were meant to be with from birth. The father of your daughter.
Your mentor. Your wise one. Your wily and smiling man. Your husband.


I invite you to write your own poem on the theme "Mother to Father." Please email your submission to birthingmotherwriter[AT]gmail[dot]com by July 4th. Be sure to put "Birthing the Mother Writer: 6" in the subject line, and place the text of your poem in the body of the email. By sending in your submission, you agree that your poem, if chosen for publication, may receive suggestions for revision, and you also agree to revise and submit a new version for publication within two weeks.

Cassie Premo Steele, Ph.D. is the author of 13 books, most recently Earth Joy Writing. The book includes writing prompts for every month of the year, plus audio meditations and video workshops. She teaches an innovative online course combining mindfulness and feminist theory for women academics called The Feminar. Cassie is currently working on a memoir about how coming out returned her to her mother and her faith.

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These are beautiful, Cassie, and a nice challenge for writers used to crafting prose. I love how you move from abstract images and metaphors to very concrete details and get a real sense of your husband and your relationship.
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