Poetry / Catherine Theis
:: Excerpts From Your Baby Book ::
You sleep for an hour. The bird flutters by the window’s screen just as you stir awake. I feed you again, hoping you will fall back asleep. You are quiet now. You are crying now, matter-of-factly. There is always a touch of the menace in the imagination. It’s hard to understand. The loneliness of the long-distance swimmer is like the loneliness of the mother. I hear you cry in the film’s soundtrack. The short film is usually in black and white but your cry is always color. Poems, babies, I have milk. I have loaves of bread, wheels of aged goat cheese and a bruise you would hardly believe. I have a small barrel of red wine ready to be tapped after seven o’clock and an entire dishwasher of stemware piping hot. I have an advent calendar with twenty-five tiny doors opening into a hallway of pure celestial light— The facts of today: I buy a singular persimmon nicked by your teeth. I bring permission to myself to begin again. I whip heavy cream for a dessert custard of persimmon. The custard so sweet I don’t add any sugar. Your bumblebee hat still fits, so. The slide at the playground an entirely new experience. Have we officially exhausted the swings? I hold onto your tiny torso while simultaneously letting you slide down. You look the part of a young bumblebee. We buzz on home under the pink toxic skies of Los Angeles. I buy a second persimmon from Bob’s Market. You get to work immediately, scoring its smooth orange skin with your luminous front tooth, a surprising ferocity. Your fist smaller than the globe of fruit. Closer and closer you inch toward the spinning center of creation. Your preferred method of transport the whirling, lurching see-saw of swing. Your clothes grow tighter. Two colds, one with one cough. We wash blackberry stains from your booties every night. Birthday celebration? Champagne, oysters, blackberries?
From the writer
:: Account ::
I decide to write again out of the nothing.
The appropriate amount of time has passed. I have grieved enough for my body. The world glows in springtime green. I almost forget how quickly the hemorrhage began, how many pints of blood I lost that day or how the doctors and nurses didn’t even have enough time to warm the transfusion blood. I’m O positive. One of the ancient blood types. Various mystics and healers have suggested to me that it’s beneficial to eat red meat and greens. This doesn’t surprise me. I’ve picked my fair share of bitter dandelions from the rocky mountainside with the wind blowing up my black skirt. I do try to eat a nice steak at least one a week. Just like I try to write at least once a week. Also raw oysters. Whatever minerals I’m missing, I crave the creamy flesh of oysters like you wouldn’t believe.
I read somewhere that the pregnant woman’s brain shrinks, and that it takes a full six months after the baby is born to regain its original size.
I have roughly two more months to go.
My sister tells me this is not true. A woman’s brain after having given birth actually grows in size. But we both get some version of the story wrong. I finally read an article that describes the loss of gray matter—specifically in the part of the brain that controls social interaction—as a process called synaptic pruning. This pruning is not a loss of ability but rather an indication that the brain is becoming more specialized. In other words, the gray matter in the mother’s brain changes so that she becomes more attuned to the social cues of her baby and less attentive to the cues of those biting flies around her.
I always keep a flyswatter within reach now. One hangs on a hook near the kitchen sink. One hangs in the laundry room. I saw another one on the dining room table just the other day.
“That’s a calendar with the moon cycles,” I tell the baby, who eats his stuffed firefly we have named Blu for no other reason than we like the sound of the word—blu. The baby sits upon a tuffet on the counter while I narrate the making of the coffee. Eating his curds and whey, eating his curds and whey.
He moves his little neck. His eyes follow. Then his arms stir. He moves in pieces, in parts. A tiny red porcelain spoon taps out coffee grounds into a red coffee pot. I never noticed our fetish with red kitchen appliances and utensils. I’m letting his father sleep in this morning. I can handle the first round, I think.
Catherine Theis is the author of The Fraud of Good Sleep (Salt Modern Poets, 2011) and the chapbook The June Cuckold, a tragedy in verse (Convulsive Editions, 2012). Her recent publication is a full-length original play called MEDEA (Plays Inverse Press, 2017). Recent poems have appeared in Prelude and Quarterly West. Forthcoming poems in Firmament.