Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
Old Body

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Sleeping Beauty's kingdom slept for longer
than we have been crying. And didn't that story begin
with the pain of parents and an only child?
I am two dead babies so far. One more
and it will be almost my mother's story, too,
the same dumb well
that cannot wail and carry on for its own sake.
Though in comparison, my life is charmed,
no 17-year-old American girl
negotiating bank warnings and eviction notices
into Italian for her parents.
Still, my babies follow me everywhere,
enter our dirty mixed up family with tender feet.
Joining so many other ghost babies at the table.
And we have set places for none of them.
I am sister, mother, daughter to them all.
Grief in the half shadows though I want to
get on with it.
No shelter.
The wild little unborns scoff.
Either way you'll join us, they seem to say.

When I turn my head in the car
I see one child, one car seat. The child is
smiling, dreaming of her birthday.
The baby ghosts have lifted
their heavy business for a moment
but instead of lightness
I feel only its strange borders
and no ending that can arrange this thing
for the moment when we awake.


Julia Lisella is the mother of a ten year old daughter and a three year old son. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Many Mountains Moving, Solo, Pebble Lake Review, Pleiades, Sidelines (a publication for women on pregnancy bedrest) and many other publications. She is a lecturer of history and literature at Harvard University and teaches poetry in the Harvard Extension School. She is at work on a scholarly book dealing with maternity and political poetry of the 1930s.


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