Do you remember what it took to write in the heat of early motherhood, much less to revise and submit work? I do… And I remember how ecstatic I felt when Literary Mama first put up a poem of mine way back in 2009 when I had three young children under the age of 8. What a blessing, as my son (quiet newborn star of that early poem) turns to enter his senior year, to be able to return to Literary Mama’s pages to talk about not just one poem, but an entire collection, a life-time’s take on motherhood among other topics, a lovely affirmation of hours and years of putting pen to the page, revising, dreaming, sleeping, parenting, sending work out…trusting, and dreaming some more.
Thank you to Literary Mama’s editors for posting the interview: Trust That You Are Always Writing: A Conversation with Poet and Muse Tania Pryputniewicz, and much gratitude to Rebecca Jane (author of She Bleeds Sestinas) for the hours she spent in conversation (and editing with the editors) to bring it into this form. We discuss a number of the poems from my poetry collection, The Fool in the Corn (December 2022, Saddle Road Press) including Field Trip, Letter to the Queen of Swords, Plainsong: After the Divorce, Recital: Canticle, and Poetry Rules in the Heartland.
By way of gratitude and for nostalgia’s sake, here’s that first poem as it appeared at Literary Mama fourteen years ago.
The nurse on call with British accent
repeats over the phone: “Cup them in cabbage.”
Because it’s Sunday, because they’re beastly
hot and lumpy, because they’re veined and rutted
as a cantaloupe’s rind, you go to the fridge. You cry
when the baby cries, then override the urge
to run, pressing that little purple set of lips against
your fissured, dripping nipple. The toothless gums
clamp down, drawing milk, a little blood,
in the stinging rush of letdown, which in turn turns
some part of you you thought you lost at the birth,
furred with gobs of plum, unmoored like a pit
or a cheek bitten into, sore, salty, you long
to lick with your tongue but cannot reach. That nurse,
when the baby finally sleeps, has long since gone home.
How did she know? How did the cabbage know, cold
white spines and pale green, waxen leaves as wrinkled,
as damp, as the tiny fingers curled around your thumb.
A little backstory not present in the poem: my paternal grandmother passed away several hours before the child mentioned in this poem was born. I heard the news in the hospital as I handed my newborn to my father. My attending nurse on call spoke with a British accent just like my grandmother, giving me the gift of an echo of Grandma’s voice for a little longer.
And for old time’s sake, here’s a photo taken by Robyn Beattie, I believe, in the garden at Osmosis retreat and spa in Freestone (Northern California), said and celebrated child in utero.
Thank you for the full circle love, Literary Mama, and for giving my voice a place at the table across years of motherhood and writing.