I have not grown
up yet, I have lived as my daughter's mother
the way I had lived as my mother's daughter,
inside her life. I have not been born yet.
- from Physics by Sharon Olds
Looking for a poem to celebrate my daughter's birthday, I find this. Strike Sparks, Old's Selected Poems, sits on the bookshelf, mostly. I love and loathe Old's brashness in equal measure. I read her poems and wonder how she could write them - how she could step out from behind the shelter of metaphor and claim and declaim and brag - as a mother.
When poetry was the centre for me, a spine of text that held me upright through first love, first despair, first disillusionment, I knew how to be open with words. They tumbled onto the page, between dusk and midnight, stolen words, broken words, words translated in a dream, words remembered, words used as a weapon, as a scalpel, as a dare, as a cry, as laughter. Words used as a puppeteer takes up the strings and makes his puppet dance.
After children I grew careful of words. Words shape and wound the living child. Words are for weighing, for being exact, for restraint, for hiding, for creating a new self. A self who is watched, endlessly. A self who carries the burden of the child's gaze. A self who thinks before she thinks, who edits the thought before it becomes a thought. A mother, a living puppet from whose mouth comes the words of others, written in books, in picture books. A mother who speaks love-words, being the words she feels and the words she knows she should feel.
A child is ill. The dark words call a poem-path that lead straight to the heart, the dark centre of the heart, the fear of the child's death. The child recovers and the poem dies; the poem can never be brought to light; words can shape and wound the living child.
How can she write the poems she writes ?
How can I write ?
How is the poet born from her life,
the love-words and the dark-words,
how does she write them under the child's gaze ?
The Poetry Friday round up is here.