Wednesday, June 6, 2012

from the bookshelf: the mother's tongue

We camped this past weekend, and it was gloriously beautiful.  (On roots+ wings //|\\ Wild River:  Day 1, Day 2, Day 3)

Also, I started reading The Mother's Tongue by Heid E. Erdrich.

And I read it again during one of Maya's naps, perched at the end of the bed while she hummed to herself in sleep. 

Here are some phrases that struck me in the reading:

nectary (5)
throat-open flowers (5)
gnomes in their bones (15)
the childgrain (18)
salt the pit of herself (20)
the infant face ... drifted like the moon in clouds (52)
the boat of night (59)
When I say his eyes are like a lake / I mean lakes learned this look from him (62)
Which is the volcano: / the baby's mouth, or the breast? (66)
[maternity books] suggest women should / wholly sink themselves in the milk / of motherhood and light / the match (67)
taproots shaped like men's legs (90)

There were poems that gave me a little snort of recognition--the wan hours, the ballast of the breast, the longings.  The poem "Maternal Desire" speaks of the physicality of motherhood--that body-to-body want, which I was first introduced to in the gorgeous book Great With Child: Letters to a Young Mother by Beth Ann Fennelly.  "My husband's nubby head next to mine / and our breathe, into him, our of me.  We.  We."  This made me think of that bodily tangle of co-sleeping.  That there will never be a moment again like this feeling I get just before sleep.  "My boy, so fast I chug after for a snatch of him, / just to savor the body blow he  hurls. / He never let me hold him, but on my lips.  No pictures of him but in motion. // Not one loved one, but in motion, / all headed out of the body, less needy / than needed, essential food, the have to have / that feeds my skin, that keeps my body, keeps me in."

Edrich and I share a geography, so when I read "Summer of Infanticides," I was brought back to that terrible Minnesota summer when mothers were killing their children at a shocking rate--plunk, plunk, each news story bringing another terrible suffering to light.  When Maya was born, I realized there would be life before and life after.  That summer was before, and so the stories meant something different to me then than they do now.  It's a beautiful poem. 

I loved what she did with form in some of these poems--"This Body, The River," has one column of colors (phtalo, cadmium, ultramarine, titanium) and the poem continues to the left.  "The Girl in Geography Class" is a poem fit into that standard encyclopedic entry-form style (border, founded, the capitol, landmarks, export, industry, transportation).

A happy note:  Erdrich has agreed to do a Balancing the Tide interview, so that is on the docket.  For now, you can revel in Nina Levy's recent offering.

1 comment:

Denise | Chez Danisse said...

I like the phrases you've collected and those photographs of Maya are so wonderful.