The body...beautiful? (and sneaky Poetry Thursday)
Motherhood has come to me in a torrent of words, but most of them have little or nothing to do with actual motherhood. Instead, all of my thoughts and words are imbued with urgency...a desire to cling to their liferaft even as emotions sweep me along. The curve of her cheek as she sleeps, pressed against the pillow as her mouth falls open—to quote William Carlos Williams "nothing matters more." Her changes are like a challenge—"keep up, mother!"—she’s a clarion call. If I lag behind, grow weary and vague, I might miss something. I might fail in my task to be her female role model.
I might fail, period.
I am surprised by the fierceness of my maternal love. It wasn’t always this way, sadly. I loved her from the beginning, but my love was tentative, even somewhat grudging. I needed to go through those late hours with her, needed to give space to my grief for my old life, for the self that was surely pooling at my feet, dress pants I no longer need for a job I no longer have. I needed to fantasize about selling her to gypsies (in spite of their absence from my California suburb). I needed to rage and shake and molt and cry and feel utterly, completely, nakedly inept.
I still do, sometimes. But the spaces between are growing green again. This must be what everyone talks about when they mention the virtues of commitment.
My daughter is the first task I can’t escape, can’t run away from.
One of the surprises of motherhood is how physical it is—the tending to her physical body, sure, with its dirty diapers and washcloths and dresses...but also how much I linger on her beauty. It is what touches me most about her. I went to a feminist Name School; I should be extolling the virtues of her humor, her curiosity, her persistence. And I do. But the adjective that comes most spontaneously, most often, is "beautiful." I drink her in greedily, take nibbles when I should be satisfied with kisses, watch her play with the kind of one-point focus that would make any Buddhist proud. Watching Madam is my meditation. She pulls me out of myself.
Why is her beauty so important to me? It satisfies a lack I never really felt was important. My way of creating beauty has always been through words. I learned early on that I could not draw (as children do when they are as self-critical as I was and still am). But if I could describe what I saw precisely, clearly...then others could see it too.
But she is wholly physical, biting and pulling and scratching at the world as she tries to understand it. She pulls me down to the ground with her as she plays, tongue poking outside of her mouth, as she crawls and grunts and stands, wobbly, the baby fat on her legs growing sinewy with the effort.
And inevitably, she makes me face my own body, something I usually manage to avoid. Oh, sure, I have a certain perfunctory gratitude for it, for bringing my Madam into being, but that’s as far as I go. Madam feels like a creation of my own mind, and my body gets scant credit.
My body tells a story about me that doesn’t feel true. My mind grows heated, electric with connection and excitement, twirling perpetually under a disco ball. My body sits, sullen, in a corner, doing its algebra homework.
We’ve not been in good terms since the pregnancy. Oh, I loved being pregnant...loved that for once, my body was signaling a change within me, marking me as part of a special tribe. I’d never been able to do that before—instead, I smiled conspiratorially at those who looked like artists, and cringed as they looked through me.
There’s a fleshy roundness to me now—overt and earthy. I try to hide it—try not to take up too much space, but whenever I see myself in a mirror, there I am. Larger than I can handle. Dowdier than I want to be. How do I learn to inhabit this new body? Megg’s words come back to me—about her journey into womanhood. I gave birth—a uniquely female experience. And yet, I don’t want to go where my body seems to take me. I want to go back to that untouched envelope of a body I once had.
Growing up, I thought my mother the most beautiful woman in the world—so much so that I relegated all matters on beauty and femininity to her. I chose to live inside my head, inside that place where I could pretend no one is ever judged on their appearance, but only on the contents of their souls. The home of the perfect books, the ones where words never darken the pristine page. The land of no mistakes, because nothing is ever embodied.
I want to be embodied. I want Madam to think me beautiful. I want my outside to match my inside. I think I finally really want to be seen.
How do I make the "it" of my body feel like "me?"
This week's Poetry Thursday prompt was to try and incorporate a phrase we use everyday into a poem. Well, I wanted to try one of those fancy new fibonnaci haikus which are all the rage, so here is my mom-fib.
Wait to be set free
By inspiration’s fickle breath.
Wait to be set free
By inspiration’s fickle breath.
Labels: Poetry Thursday