Saturday, 29 October 2011

Post Partum Poetry


I dwell alone - I dwell alone, alone
Whilst full my river flows down to the sea,
Gilded with flashing boats
That bring no friend to me:
Love-songs, gurgling from a hundred throats,
O love-pangs, let me be.
Fair fall the freighted boats which gold and stone
And spices bear to sea:
Slim, gleaming maidens swell their mellow notes,
Love-promising, entreating -
Ah! sweet, but fleeting -
Beneath the shivering, snow-white sails.
Hush! the wind flags and fails -
Hush! they will lie becalmed in sight of strand -
Sight of my strand, where I do dwell alone;
Their songs wake singing echoes in my land -
They cannot hear me moan.

Christina Rossetti

There must be a loneliness after the baby, who has been in your body for 9 months leaves you to begin it's own journey through life.

There is a whole hoard for poems which carry this thought. My old favorites by Silvia Plath, which express her anguish at not being able to carry a child, her expectation once she was pregnant, and then the unhappiness that she unexpectedly still felt once the child had arrived.
'Barren Woman' compares her body, her womb, to an empty museum, she is as virginal and as empty as a nun...
'You're' is written about her pregnancy (with daughter Freida). The nine months of silence, between the Fourth Of July to All Fool's Day.
The tone is light hearted, but the content quite dark; comparing her unborn child to very foreign things - a fish, an owl, a turnip, a sprat in a pickle jar, a creel of eels. This child feels to her, further off than Australia. Whilst in the womb, her baby is blank slate.
Morning Song was written shortly after the birth of her first child, and whilst there is finally a 'new statue' in the otherwise empty museum, Plath still feels an alienation to her child, who here she compares to a cat and a moth. She compares her self to a cow, heavy with milk, and purely a necessity.
In 'Child', Plath clealy acknowledges her great love and appreciation for her new baby, but also her sadness that due to her own unhappiness she will not be able to fill her baby's eyes with 'colour and ducks' and all that it deserves.

Empty, I echo to the least footfall, 
Museum without statues, grand with pillars, porticoes, rotundas.
 In my courtyard a fountain leaps and sinks back into itself, 
Nun-hearted and blind to the world.  Marble lilies 
Exhale their pallor like scent. 
I imagine myself with a great public, 
Mother of a white Nike and several bald-eyed Apollos.
 Insread, the dead injure me attentions, and nothing can happen. 
Blank-faced and mum as a nurse.

Clownlike, happiest on your hands, 
Feet to the stars, and moon-skulled, 
Gilled like a fish. A common-sense 
Thumbs-down on the dodo's mode.
 Wrapped up in yourself like a spool, 
Trawling your dark, as owls do. 
Mute as a turnip from the Fourth 
Of July to All Fools' Day,
 O high-riser, my little loaf.
Vague as fog and looked for like mail.
 Farther off than Australia. 
Bent-backed Atlas, our traveled prawn. 
Snug as a bud and at home 
Like a sprat in a pickle jug. 
A creel of eels, all ripples. 
Jumpy as a Mexican bean. 
Right, like a well-done sum.
 A clean slate, with your own face on.

Love set you going like a fat gold watch. 
The midwife slapped your footsoles, and your bald cry 
Took its place among the elements.  

Our voices echo, magnifying your arrival.  
New statue. 
In a drafty museum, your nakedness 
Shadows our safety.  
We stand round blankly as walls.  

I'm no more your mother 
Than the cloud that distills a mirror to reflect its own slow 
Effacement at the wind's hand. 

 All night your moth-breath 
Flickers among the flat pink roses. 
I wake to listen: 
A far sea moves in my ear.
 One cry, and I stumble from bed, cow-heavy and floral 
In my Victorian nightgown. 
Your mouth opens clean as a cat's.  The window square
Whitens and swallows its dull stars. 
And now you try 
Your handful of notes; 
The clear vowels rise like balloons


Your clear eye is the one absolutely beautiful thing.
I want to fill it with color and ducks,
The zoo of the new
Whose name you meditate--
April snowdrop, Indian pipe,

Stalk without wrinkle,
Pool in which images
Should be grand and classical

Not this troublous
Wringing of hands, this dark
Ceiling without a star.

On a lighter note, these poems could be compared to Helen Dunmore's All The Things You Are Not Yet. (see below)

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