Wednesday, November 10, 2010


When I write a poem, I like to stay up very late while everyone else in my house is asleep. I like to write at the kitchen table, drinking tea and eating chocolate,  and reading my drafts aloud, making changes as I go. I like to lie awake in bed, even later, and think about writing poems and about particular images which have made their way into my drafts. In the morning I like to sleep late, rising only to make a cup of tea and bring it back to bed so that I can re-read last night's draft and see what survives of it in the stronger light of morning and what, in contrast,  needs to be cut.

When I am being the kind of mother I think I would like to be, I rise at least as early as the second child. I make a decent breakfast. I supervise vitamins and teeth and hair and choice of clothing and I do my chores and make sure the children are doing their chores and settle everyone at the kitchen table to do their maths and provide them with meals and an education and love and concern and playdates and excursions till night falls and I ease them all into sleep and then I go to bed early and make lists in my head called Things To Do Tomorrow.

And even thinking about that contrast is so Western, so decadent, so much the spoilt complaint of a woman who has running water and food and a house and an education and children who are safe -

And yet. It's as though the mother and the poet are Babushka dolls of the same size, and neither can fit easily in the other.


  1. Ah, Melissa. I know what you mean. I want both, and I want somehow for the two to fit so the Mother and Writer both get to breathe. I've been staying up late AND getting up early. Not sure how long this can last!
    It's like the writer is watching always, saying, Is it my turn, now? The thing that gets me through those moments is how SURE I am her turn is coming. In fact, I realise, her turn is now, but it comes in bits and dribbles. I never used to grab those bits and dribbles—they were never enough. My writer is changing, not sure what into, but she's grabbing those moments and holding on for dear life.
    Thank you for writing what is so often in my head! Not just in this post, but in all.

  2. My trouble is that once I have a bit of time, I experience great reluctance to return to the 'real' world! It feels good to know you really, truly 'get it'...

  3. I've been thinking about something you said all weekend :) I posted about it here:

    This is such a lovely post, Melissa!