At the sink you fling your mane of golden hair / over your head, exposing bare shoulders, / one bandaged to keep the collarbone still / so its break can heal. I test the water / as I did when I lowered you, a baby, / into the sink for your bath. How awkward / this seems, a young man thrown back / on his mother’s care, and the tenderness / of that care flooding back on me.
Lent, and old French hymns decorate / the hours. These are sad songs, migrating / sorrow from oud to violin / in the ancestors of low notes, carrying echoes / of tabla, dropping among our voices like rain. // At home the garden stirs. Kingbirds fight / for scraps off the vine. I bruise / sweet peas urging them / upward on poles / trussed with chicken wire // before the heat comes / and withers their pastel bloom.
Cristi Donoso Best
With sticky palms to the ceiling / he offers you an old baby doll, its / yarn hair limp and eyes set back, / “Don’t cry, mama.” / The lawyer says it’s been “interrupted,” / like a phone call you make / on a Saturday to your sister, / as if after a pause, it will continue.
You shot out of me / like a / champagne cork—like Superman, your // grandmother said. Legs / straddled / open, a loved one holding each // up-raised foot, I saw / that same / shock flash between their faces when // you flew into the / doctor’s / arms.
Stacia M. Fleegal
They lifted my feet, murmured Trendelenburg in hushed chorus, raised and back-tipped my tentacled body to keep the baby from plopping out like an inkblot. Head rush, toes pinned and needling, someone stood on my cath line until I felt my bladder would bomb apart, and amid the new beeps and chaos I began to cry …
Raquel Vasquez Gilliland
We found out about you / in a blizzard. Fat snow / flakes caught city light / like raw quartz / on their way to Earth. / The magic of your / poppyseed-body / turned strips of paper / pink. Your first words / in an ancient glyph of / two lines: I exist.
The workshop leader / tells us about the young niece he adores, says he’s jealous / of children who pee their pants from laughing. / I look around and guess–no one else at the small table has given birth– / and I almost say once you have a baby, there’s much more opportunity / to pee one’s pants, laughing or coughing, you name it.
A piece of paper, court of law, / and you were bound to us. // Isaac, bound by ignorance, / gathered kindling in the bush. You // stand stiff, a cement wall, / weeping. Days // you disappear, / a shrieking lion // tattooed on your arm. When / Isaac asked, Abraham // lied. You say / you trust no one.
Too much wine means two children is too much, / for the two versions of me I’m exhausted from / trying to reconcile. // My daughter crackles paper. / My son thinks of the endless possibilities of a new toy. // And me, I press my head against the spindles of our staircase.
Shannon Connor Winward
That first morning / were it not for the handrail / I’d have burst my incisions, bolting // back from sleep, already sure / that you were gone. / I’ve had to relearn it // so used to the absence, the never / of you, that joy is fear, is / pink-tinged, is // checking your chest as one does / the stove, the locks.
We publish poetry that has some element of the unexpected–whether it’s the language, the imagery, or the emotion—yet feels honest. Do you have a poem that acknowledges the intensity of motherhood? Read more about submitting your work here.