Poetry /Julia Kolchinsky Dasbach
:: Week 9: Grape ::
louse: the singular form of lice, small, wingless, you’d never heard of because you never find just one like the note from your son’s school saying one girl has them & she’s been treated & you should check every tangle of your son’s curls to make sure some haven’t found their way inside & another mother says she’d buzz it all off just to be safe, says he’s a boy so he’ll look tougher anyway & you recall how you were three then too when your parents nearly shaved you & the other kids wouldn’t share the bench, would run away & yell & point, would laugh how you were infected & dirty & a louse, ruined —Jewish—so you’ll refuse to cut his hair & scour each perfect ringlet, twist their multitudes around your fingers & when you find only more locks, you’ll tell him to sit with Evelyn tomorrow, to remind her she is beautiful & loved
:: Week 33: Pineapple ::
Every time she turns her head between your ilium & coxal bones, you feel your water about to break, afraid of that balloon-pop in your pelvis, afraid break is wholly wrong for what shifts or tears, slips & loosens. Bones break. Hearts, maybe. But the veil between your body’s end & her beginning? There’s no breaking it. Looks like that baby is about to fall right out of you, the women call, holding tight to what’s already fallen from inside of them. Fall too, wholly wrong for the way a body enters breathing. Rain falls. Fruits from trees. But body from body? There must be more to describe such cleaving. Directionless & unfinished. I’m gonna report you to the grocery store, a man yells passing, you stole one of their watermelons. How easy to be so wrong in naming what you’ve never carried. She is not a vine-trailing scrambler yet, spreading as she clings to soil. For now, she’s still reaching for the sun atop a tall palm, still hardening, bones in her skull just starting to overlap, preparing for descent, She’s only a pineapple, you correct him, & keep on walking, one slow bone in front of the other, unsure which one of you is going where or how to name your joined, persistent motion.
From the writer
:: Account ::
These poems come from a book-length manuscript, 40 WEEKS (YesYes Books, 2023) in which I wrote a poem for each week of pregnancy with my second child, playing with the fruits and vegetables the baby’s size is compared to in the weekly emails those who are expecting can sign up to receive. While at times I take inspiration from the objects themselves, the poems aim to highlight the problematic aspects of such comparisons—the way they gender and objectify what is growing inside—and focus instead on societal taboos of the pregnant body and our continued cultural misrepresentation of and discomfort with the experience of the more unfiltered sides of motherhood. These poems embrace the bare and grotesque, looking at what is often looked away from without shame, or at least questioning why there is shame attached to the looking. They are also very much trying to figure out how to continue to mother my neurodivergent older child, who is on the spectrum, while pregnant with my daughter. In writing a poem each week that connected my experience of motherhood and pregnancy, I was able to stay connected to my identities as a mother and writer, feeling that one was feeding the other. I was a better mother because I was able to write, and I was a better writer because I was drawing on my vivid and visceral experience of motherhood. I did not have to choose one, but rather, could be both, and for me, there is no other way of being in the world. I am always navigating space and interactions as a mother, multitasking by simultaneously trying to capture the stories and lyric moments all around me—made more urgent and singing louder because of my children.
Julia Kolchinsky Dasbach (www.juliakolchinskydasbach.com) emigrated from Dnipro, Ukraine as a Jewish refugee when she was six. She is the author of three poetry collections: The Many Names for Mother (Kent State University Press, 2019); Don’t Touch the Bones (Lost Horse Press, 2020); and 40 WEEKS, forthcoming from YesYes Books in February, 2023. Her recent poems appear in POETRY, Ploughshares, American Poetry Review, and AGNI, among others. She holds an MFA from the University of Oregon and a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature and Literary Theory from the University of Pennsylvania. Her dissertation, Lyric Witness: Intergenerational (Re)collection of the Holocaust in Contemporary American Poetry, pays particular attention to the underrepresented atrocity in the former Soviet territories. Julia is the author of the model poem for “Dear Ukraine”: A Global Community Poem https://dearukrainepoem.com/. She is the Murphy Visiting Fellow in Poetry at Hendrix College and lives in Little Rock, Arkansas with her family.