Thursday, May 24, 2007

Poetry thursday 5.24.07

Most Exquisite Swell

Eleven o’clock, drifting to sleep, water
breaking, me a sudden tangle of wet sheets
as contractions washed over in savage waves
caught in the undertow, I had to force myself
to breathe, to find their rhythm—first in, then out—
barely relaxed in the lull between each swell.

Surprised, I noticed glad tears begin to swell
knew this was only beginning, the water
harbinger of that new life coming out
of me, so I peeled away the chilled, drenched sheets
as a trickle coursed down my legs, felt myself
surrender to sobs that heaved in salty waves.

I dressed: a dry shirt; a skirt draped in soft waves
hiding the towel that staunched the ebb and swell
weeping from my ready womb; shoes; then wrapped myself
in a warm blue coat, azure as calm water
against black March rain showering down in sheets
so prepared with a small suitcase I set out.

At the hospital, I was quickly thrust out
of labor’s deep groove, cast up on livid waves
subjected to IV, laid on sterile sheets
all those things I did not want, the viscous swell
of impotent rage congealed by ice water
a cup of cold comfort to hydrate myself.

Hours passed, ample time to flagellate myself
for failing to progress, to push my child out
after bearing down I slipped under water
drowning in self-doubt, sinking below waves
of sorrow for my frailty, a woeful swell
my defeat marked by the whiteness of the sheets.

Faced with decision I abandoned those sheets
chose gurney ride, harsh lights, at last gave myself
to liberating knife slice below the swell
of ripe belly, pressing, tugging, lifting out
tiny body, new life from my own, as waves
rocked me to sleep, swept me into calm water.

Mingled blood and water, rage and joy, those waves
ebbed away after the most exquisite swell
swaddled in soft sheets, I saw him for myself.


Clare said...

This is an incredible sestina! I love how all the elements flow with such wavelike fluidity. Beautiful!

gautami tripathy said...

I like this sestina which takes us through the most beautiful of creative process in the whole of nature...the birth of a child.

Clay Lowe said...

Though I can never share in the physical experience of giving birth, this poem brings me right there in the delivery room and gives me a sense of the joy and the pain.

Clockworkchris said...

What they said...But really, this was intense! I know a little about childbirth and I caught the C-section at the end. This is just amazing. Only a woman could write it. I am so thankful that you bothered to leave me a comment. I have nothing this good, and my PT this week was a joke. This was just one of the most beautiful poems I have ever read and I am in awe.

LJCohen said...

Wow--my hat's off to you for writing a sestina. I think the most difficult of poetic beasties.

This was so like my first labor/delivery it was spooky to read.

Wonderful use of water images.

chicklegirl said...

Clare--thanks, and thank you for inspiring me to attempt a sestina!

Gautami--this birth was so very beautiful to me (which I tried to capture). Now I'm looking forward to another!

Clay & Chris--what empathic guys you are to try and understand. Thank you for your kind comments.

Ljcohen--Glad I could tap into a common experience.

Remiman said...

This captures the process perfectly and with a sestina no less. Well a perfect c-section....satisfaction in the end.

chicklegirl said...

Rel--Yes, it is (after all else) the end result that was the most important for me in this story. Glad that came across.

Catherine said...

You handled the form so well - I haven't been brave enough to try a sestina yet. My memories of childbirth are a long way back now, but this brings it all back for me

Tracie Lyn Huskamp said...

I have never had a child but I felt all the emotions wrapped up in those moments of joy and pain.

Thanks for sharing!