The child takes her first journey
through the inner blue world of her mother's body,
blue veins, blue eyes, frail petal lids.
Beyond that unborn brackish world so deep
it will be felt forever as longing, a dream
of blue notes plucked from memory's guitar,
the wind blows indigo shadows under streetlights,
clouds crowd the moon and bear down on the limbs
of a blue spruce. The child's head appears—
midnight pond, weedy and glistening—
draws back, reluctant to leave that first home.
Blue catch in the mother's throat,
ferocious bruise of a growl, and out slides
the iridescent body—fish-slippery
in her father's hands, plucked from water
into such thin densities of air,
her arms and tiny hands stutter and flail,
till he places her on her mother's body,
then cuts the smoky cord, releasing her
into this world, its cold harbor below
where a blue caul of shrink-wrap covers
each boat gestating on the winter shore.
Child, the world comes in twos, above and below,
visible and unseen. Inside your mother's croon
there's the hum of an old man tapping his foot
on a porch floor, his instrument made from one
string nailed to a wall, as if anything
can be turned into song, always what is
and what is longed for. Against the window
the electric blue of cop lights signals
somebody's bad news, and a lone man walks
through the street, his guitar sealed in dark plush.
Child, from this world now you will draw your breath
and let out your moth flutter of blue sighs.
Now your mother will listen for each one,
alert enough to hear snow starting to flake
from the sky, bay water beginning to freeze.
Sleep now, little shadow, as your first world
still flickers across your face, that other side
where all was given and nothing desired.
Soon enough you'll want milk, want faces, hands,
heartbeats and voices singing in your ear.
Soon the world will amaze you, and you
will give back its bird-warble, its dove call,
singing that blue note which deepens the song,
that longing for what no one can recall,
your small night cry roused from the wholeness
you carry into this broken world.
|From Rough Cradle by Betsy Sholl. Copyright © 2009 by Betsy Sholl. Used by permission of Alice James Books. All rights reserved.|