Prose from Poetry Magazine

As If Nature Talked Back To Me

A Notebook.

by Ange Mlinko

Motherhood is perfect cover; you can hide away, and no one would think to look for you. You are not a free agent, hence uninteresting. Your social self is a wraith in memory while your bodily self mucks about with a bairn in an afterlife quarantined to the physical.

I wanted to hide out, and I got my wish. No more New York City—parties, bar readings. Instead: fixer-upper with a fenced-in yard, a station wagon for diaper runs to big box stores. The car seats advertised my eligibility for the parking spots up front—reserved not for the handicapped but for “members with infants.”

This is all too familiar territory. Dozens of mothers (and some fathers) are getting reputations, not to mention paychecks, from a spate of parenting books, blogs, and essays in lifestyle sections of newspapers. So when I was asked for my own take on this inexplicably titillating topic, my first thought was: “Oh no.” That I had already gone on record (on Harriet, the Poetry Foundation blog) as being suspicious of “mommy poems” was one reason for my trepidation; another was the knowledge that I was treading on ground covered by so many before me: there was a crowded field at my back. I would have to inhabit this role, mother-poet, once in the flesh, and again through the literature already bodied forth. And this second experience is much like the first: intense, but also kind of boring. I don’t want to read anthologies of mother poems. On the other hand, I am always interested in what individual poets write about their children, in context with all the other things they write about.

I cast my mind back to a recent anthology of poets’ essays on motherhood, The Grand Permission. I remembered feeling smothered by all the talk. The glory of the quotidian. The intellectualization of the mammalian.

The one piece that spoke to me was Fanny Howe’s “The Pinocchian Ideal,” which later became absorbed into “Fairies” in her first book of essays, The Wedding Dress. Howe recaps the original story of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi, in which the wooden doll is abused by his adoptive mother, the Blue-Haired Fairy. The violence of this relationship—the boy who lacks and yearns for a mother, the mother who sees he isn’t a “real” child and so torments him with double-binds—stands in for the relationship a mother has with her writing. “Her bad puppet is her writing, her music, her painting, her dance, sculpture, film; it is her critique of society.” It is always secondary to the flesh-and-blood child, Howe owns, but it is safer: it can be experimented with, toyed with. One’s work is liberating; it is precisely the real child, the child one loves blindly, that makes one hostage to fortune. And to fear.

And this relates back to my queasiness with the whole motherhood genre. Howe nails it:

Her problem comes later when she pushes the poor work out the door and into the marketplace and tries to make it “sell.”
    This confusion between a thing that is made out of nothing and the market economy that prices all materials is perhaps more intense for a mother than
for any other. Her awareness of the supernatural is intensified daily by the cries of the natural.   
    She loves her child and she adores her work.
    Her crisis comes at the thre
shold to a world where there is a terrifying cacophony of machines awaiting both her work and her children.

As a sequestered new mother ricocheting between the writing desk and the rocking chair, leaving the house only once a day to go to the park or the grocery store, I could not read that without dread.

*     *     *

I was living in New York City in a neighborhood positively designated for middle-class breeding: Park Slope, Brooklyn. Just a block away, on the main drag, were shops and salons catering to new moms and tots; organic groceries; cafes where one could breastfeed over a cup of lavender-chamomile tea with a pod of other moms (like a holt of otters, urban mothers should have a group category). What was this unspoken imperative that had sent so many of us to these leafy streets of nineteenth-century, human-scale brownstones across the river from the towers and crowds engaged in what Anne Winters called “the mill-race”? This urban pastoral, with its boutiques and branded park (Prospect Park was an Olmstead creation) both marked us and divided us from the real action, the financial and sexual economy that bought and sold products and fantasies, while giving us our little bit of consumer feasting as well. Most of my friends did not have children, and that included poets. Being a mother was rarefied, exotic. It was a different lifestyle with different accoutrements. And it was a “choice” among others.

*     *     *

When my grandmother bore children it was wartime. She was flung inexorably westward from Minsk; she gave birth on a cave floor somewhere in Germany with bombs falling around her. I don’t suppose anyone ever asked her What were you thinking? the way they might ask a pregnant woman today whose life wasn’t perfectly optimized—husband, income, housing—to receive a child who would need all the advantages to stay afloat in a libertarian economy. And now, in the age of reproductive choice, where the default position seems to be: you don’t have them—until you do, those of us who have embraced chance and children feel closer to one another than we do to our friends who haven’t, and vice versa I suppose. A gulf has opened up, and what was once inevitable, natural, and wholly expected has become boutique: a specialty, a lifestyle, a choice. So when anthologies about “motherhood” come out, and individual poets, usually women, single out this aspect of their identity and make it central to the marketing of their work, they are participating in a larger movement that seals off both poem and identity from the mainstream. Meanwhile, it commodifies them. And—Howe implies this—because both poem and child, poet and mother, exactly stand for the embodiment of soul, it is potent: it masks the buying and selling perfectly.

*     *     *

(En route to the apocryphal Field of Miracles, Pinocchio has to pass through the city of Chumptrap, populated by those who have sold their treasure: “fleeced sheep shivering from cold, hens with no combs or wattles begging for kernels of corn, large butterflies who could no longer fly because they had sold their beautiful wings, tailless peacocks who were ashamed to be seen, and pheasants who toddled quietly about, mourning their glittering gold-and-silver feathers, now lost forever.”)

*     *     *

Tangentially, meanwhile, children have become almost as burdensome to a “poetry career” as to any other career. While it seems that only a short while ago we were chock-full of superstitions about poets, the better to understand why poetry is so mysterious, so unpredictable, so difficult to write, now it’s all business. No more Robert Graves and his White Goddess, the Muse available strictly to the male suitor; for that, we can be thankful. But the plethora of conferences and grants and brief residencies by which cvs—and social networks, and reputations—are built, are no less restrictive to the poet-mother who might in time need a job (“the market economy that prices all materials”). The gulf between those who are mobile and unencumbered and those who are ruled by necessity is writ everywhere in corporate America; this is just another iteration of it.

*     *     *

I’m leafing through The Story of English in the library. (The clean, quiet, free library is one of the main recreational sites of the suburbs.) I happen across a paragraph about the Anglo-Saxons and their poets: it is said that they “valued understatement, and liked riddles, and poems which went in circles.” They loved “ambiguity, innuendo, and word-play.” American culture has turned this preference on its head: the coin of currency is not ambiguity but confession. “You’re hiding something!” they cry accusingly, when poets feint or pun.

Over the last half-century, poetry and memoir have served the function of self-expression, and self-expression is justified as a necessary truth-telling. “Identity” poetry has even claimed the moral high ground, since truth-telling by the oppressed is an ethical imperative. But revelation exists in dialogue with secrecy. Withholding is what gives telling its power. It’s always what gets left out, in country ballads as well as sophisticated verse, that wounds the audience into inquiry. The invisible underwrites the visible; so it is our jobs as poets to gesture to the world’s infinite potential at the limits of the actual. This is how we express hope and futurity.

In other words: the infinitely pregnant. The indefinitely hidden.

*     *     *

“In the light of the moon, a little egg lay on a leaf.” The Very Hungry Caterpillar is a great favorite at the moment, my two-year-old son Gray seems to have it memorized. He gets very concerned when he reaches the end of the long list of foods the caterpillar has eaten, for there he is, the little creature, sad-faced in the illustration. “That night he had a stomachache!” “Oh no!” Gray exclaims, bending over very close, wearing a pained look. “He’s sad! The caterpillar is sad!”

“Since that first morning when I crawled / into the world, a naked grubby thing, / and found the world unkind.” A few months ago, I happened on Stanley Kunitz’s “Hornworm: Autumn Lamentation.” By coincidence, I had seen my first hornworm around the same time—it was my first foray into growing tomatoes—and the thing, thick as a man’s finger and green as goo, almost turned me to stone then and there. It was covered with white—what looked like eggs. I looked it up on the Internet and learned they were parasitic wasp pupae eating their host alive. The caterpillar was en route to being a splendid sphinx moth when its future was usurped by the hymenoptera, but I wasn’t supposed to pity it; gardeners hate these tomatovores. Gardeners rejoice at the wasps. The distinction of Kunitz’s poem, of course, lies in its taking the hornworm’s side, telling the story of creation’s injustice in the hornworm’s own voice.

You can’t judge a work’s value by whether it moves you to tears. When Gray bursts into tears at renditions of Brahms’s “Lullabye” and tells me, “The song is so sad,” I know that weak vehicles can stand for a tenor so vague and tremulous it is unknowable. My tears spring unbidden at the third verse of Schiller’s “Ode to Joy” as well, the vision of a holistic, animate, feeling world: “All thy works with joy surround thee.” I realize that the very word “creation” moves me deeply. It touches the feeling I’ve always had that making things was what I was for (the root of poetry is simply making) and the vision of the world as made, and continually being made, and endowed with consciousness of its making—all this was an early glimpse into the power that unifies the subterranean ground between making poems and making new human beings.

The flipside is a sort of naked terror I never felt before I had sons to feel terrified for. There’s something marvelously true to experience in Laura Kasischke’s work—I’m thinking of her book Lilies Withoutwhich locates this terror beneath the surface of suburban motherhood: poems like “May,” where a cherry tree planted outside a school in memory of a dead kindergartener “shrieked into blossom.” In “New Dress (3),” a suburban mother and a mall security guard eerily end up in the same nightmare “screaming” during a friendly exchange over a trapped pigeon. While gothic suburbia was captured—practically trademarked!— by David Lynch a couple of decades ago, Kasischke gives it a fuller treatment from the point of view of the mother who stands between her child’s innocence and death, negotiating the narrow space between them. It is a tonic to the notorious visions of suburbia as wasteland or graveyard of sexuality, as in the famous Larkin poem, “Afternoons,” where “Young mothers assemble / At swing and sandpit” and

Their beauty has thickened.
Something is pushing them
To the side of their own lives.

While suburbia is—to put it mildly—unlibidinal, there’s something trite at this point in Larkin’s poem, something that feels too much like a man playing to others’ prejudices. There’s an appearance of sympathy toward the women but the melancholia is misplaced. Women with young children still have a lifetime ahead of them.

*     *     *

Sadness at suffering, ecstasy in creation, terror of death—it doesn’t seem like boredom plays much part in this whole endeavor, though if pressed I would have to admit that my days are mostly filled with changing diapers and pouring chocolate milk.

              Thou pretty opening rose!
(Go to your mother, child, and wipe your nose!)
Balmy, and breathing music like the South,
(He really brings my heart into my mouth!)
Fresh as the morn, and brilliant as its star,
(I wish that window had an iron bar!)
Bold as the hawk, yet gentle as the dove—
       (I’ll tell you what, my love,
I cannot write, unless he’s sent above!)

Thomas Hood must have written some of the most forgettable verse on fatherhood ever (“On a Sleeping Child,” “To a Child Embracing His Mother,” “Lines on Seeing My Wife and Two Children Sleeping in the Same Chamber”). But he also wrote the wonderfully comic “A Parental Ode to My Son, Aged Three Years and Five Months” with its implicit dialogue between the parent’s public face—all smiles and coos—and the inner curmudgeon (“I cannot write, unless he’s sent above!”). A writing mother can relate, too.

Which is not to say that a tender poem is a deboned one, or that all happy poems are lies. But, say—don’t poets’ opuses grow with every lie?

This is the paradox. Raising children requires an existential optimism that most poets whose names aren’t “Walt Whitman” haven’t had since the dawn of modernity. Poet-mothers have a lot against them: loneliness, tedium, time constraints, imperious children’s constant interruptions, the social pressures of PTA-world. But the apprehensions behind the poet and the mother are hardest yet to reconcile: the embattled, doubt-ridden, mortal apprehensions of the poet, versus the mother who must connect, who must have faith and promote health, who must embrace creation.

If only I could be like the Blue-Haired Fairy—the mischievous mother who tests and teases Pinocchio. And then, in my poetry, I am. And then, waking up with nameless fears in the middle of the night, I’m not.

*     *     *

It seems to me I’ve been circling around this central fact: poems like Kunitz’s, or Kasischke’s, or Hood’s, drift into my orbit and rhyme with my life for the time being, and this is one way many people read poems—poems of “aboutness”: nature poems, love poems, memories-of-grandmother poems, coming-out-of-the-closet poems. But my relationships with these poems are nothing compared to the depth of my engagement with poets who, by all outward signs, have nothing to do with my identity as such. The extent to which Larkin falls short in “Afternoons” is nothing compared to how right he is in “Aubade,” and in fact he is the poet of waking up in the night with nameless fears, baby or no baby. I get hooked on poems for the music they make, not the mirror they hold up to me—but then maybe some mirrors are more surprising, more disorienting, than others. I’m aroused by strangeness.

*     *     *

I start to read Pinocchio to my six-year-old, Jacob. It’s riveting! Carlo Collodi has been so outshined by his world-renowned creation that his personal fame must be indexed in negative territory. (Is there a moral here for poets, one that parents already know?) Soon, Jacob can’t wait to find out what’s next, and starts reading on his own between our sessions. Parenthood is getting good. I’m soon thinking about what next big story to tackle.

(I’m still new at this. How can I make any definite claims about a relationship and condition—motherhood—which will have a long and changing history henceforward?

Oh, how can you trust anything I say? In Pinocchio, a thousand woodpeckers descend on the puppet’s outsized nose after he promises to lie no more.)

The story of an animated puppet is a kind of wish fulfillment for kids who surround themselves with stuffed animals or fall in love with dolls and talk to them and secretly feel they will one day talk back. I still remember the stories I wrote at age seven or eight about magical lands where dolls talked. The first poems I ever memorized were the prayers my mother taught me: the Lord’s Prayer, the Hail Mary. These poems were also addressed to personages who never talked back. Later, of course, it became apparent that writing was a way of making the inanimate talk. Stories and poems: making hornworms talk. And it’s not just about throwing your own voice. In poetry, the very language is encouraged to speak itself. We call upon a daemon in it.

(“‘Bravo, dunce! You speak like a printed book!’ howled the rascals.”)

*     *     *

In the end, as you know, the puppet becomes a real boy.

I sat in a hospital bed the day I gave birth for the first time, and looked at my son. He was a communiqué in the uncanny language of DNA.

Later I wrote in a notebook with my one free hand: “It was as if Nature talked back to me.”

Originally Published: September 1, 2009

COMMENTS (17)

On September 1, 2009 at 5:31pm Julianna Baggott wrote:
Yes, yes. This is beautifully put. I agree. I don't. Regardless, I delight in the conflicted honesty of this piece. It gives me much to think about. (I've often said that motherhood was a great disguise. Completely and sadly, agreed.)

One thing that I felt drawn to was this line:

"So when anthologies about “motherhood” come out, and individual poets, usually women, single out this aspect of their identity and make it central to the marketing of their work, they are participating in a larger movement that seals off both poem and identity from the mainstream. Meanwhile, it commodifies them."

I don't believe that speaking to an audience about a topic is "marketing" ... If a man writes a book of poems about jazz is he choosing a subject or is he marketing? I say simply choosing a subject, a focus. I also don't feel that participating in an anthology has anything to do with marketing from the poet's individual perspective. It's agreeing to participate in a discussion, perhaps?

I also wonder about the word "mainstream" here. Does the author mean mainstream poetry - which tends to see having children, as you put it as a "boutique" ... Because surely having children in and of itself is mainstream in our culture. And so an anthology by mothers about mothering could actually invite a larger, broader audience, which is quite the opposite of what the author says, no?

I want to be clear. I'm not picking a fight. Far from it. I think the ruminations here are important and that Mlinko has handled the subject with honesty and real intellect -- a perfect balance.

I hope others join in to discuss!

On September 1, 2009 at 10:34pm Martha Silano wrote:
I'm going to have to side with Julianna.
The marketing of motherhood? I believe
most poets are given to write about
certain subjects (Li-Young Lee: his father,
Marvin Bell: The Dead Man, Gary Snyder:
the practice of the wild, etc.); it's not
always a choice. As for the territory being
well-trod, I am confused: should we not
writing love poems, political poems,
poems of grief? I thought no subjects
should be forbidden.

On September 2, 2009 at 7:24am Daisy Fried wrote:
But Ange isn't forbidding motherhood as a subject. The fact that she's a mother is quite evident in her own poems.
Daisy

On September 2, 2009 at 12:05pm Leah Souffrant wrote:
What troubles me about this piece -- and what really makes it a good article at the same time -- is the way she struggles with what motherhood is and isn't, what it can and can't do/be/mean. Her resistance to motherhood as a topic for poetry -- and this attempt to give a kind of “corrective” reading to avoid a work/life conflation that risks a "sealing of from the mainstream" -- only underscores the importance of getting more of this work written, read, and published. For me, this piece doesn’t so much forbid the topic but it does dismiss what is so vital and interesting about the poems (in anthologies and out): wrestling with the contradictions and letting that Huge Thing into the writing, through women’s bodies, experience, words. If calling attention to motherhood in poems -- as not just a valid topic but a crucial one -- is dismissed as commodification, then we are taking a step back for poetry in general and women’s writing specifically.

On September 2, 2009 at 8:31pm Julianna Baggott wrote:
Leah's put a fine point on it. Yes. That's it.

On September 2, 2009 at 9:19pm Rebecca Wolff wrote:
Chiming in as co-editor (with Catherine Wagner) and publisher of the anthology Not for Mothers Only: Contemporary Poems on Child-Getting and Child-Rearing, I'll just quickly say that my aim with the anthology was to make a claim for the subject as relevant to everyone, ahem, Not to Mothers Only. We might better have titled it Everybody's Got One: Contemporary Poems. It's interesting to see the conflictedness in Mlinko's piece: Having/raising children is, of course, a subject, like any other, and I suppose that poets who become mothers will almost inevitably write some poems about it. The anthology was, on my part, largely in response to the general feeling that "baby poems" were somehow of less universal application than most other subjects, while if you accept the proposition that in fact everyone does have one (a mother, I mean), it seems clear that the reverse ought to be true.

On September 3, 2009 at 11:21am Jane VanderVelde wrote:
A lovely essay written, I presume, between strolls and naps with Gray, dish-washing and laundry, necessary errands. Full of musings and longings between profound insights, Ange Mlinko reflects a mother’s meandering mind, but this, I would argue is its strength, one we ought to cherish as equal to the traditional focused compositions we teach (yep, I teach comp) that many label masculine. Like an Alice Munro story, the pauses and shifts are organic here and allow a reader to think while reading, not merely follow the pointing arrows of the writer’s outline. Perhaps mine is a feminist reading, but I also wonder how many males will fully appreciate (or even finish reading) this rich piece about literature and motherhood.

On September 3, 2009 at 3:30pm Michael Robbins wrote:
Let me just say this: it is "given" to no one to write about anything. There's not some mystery muse in the sky bestowing subjects on poets. Poets discover their subjects the same way everyone else does: through practice, through trial & error, through careful sifting of the materials at hand. There are a few poets—Shakespeare, obviously, was one—who have no "subject" except everything.

On September 3, 2009 at 3:55pm Michael Robbins wrote:
... also thru luck, thru privilege, thru chance, thru force ...

On September 3, 2009 at 5:03pm Daisy Fried wrote:
Random thought while my kid sits on the potty trying to score Fancy Stickers as a reward: Maybe the trouble is that while a good mommy poem is as good as any poem (usually for the same reasons any good poem is good) a bad one can seem worse than other bad poems, because it bears with it a kind of special pleading--Motherhood! Children! Important!--but a special pleading for something (motherhood) which is common as rain.

On September 10, 2009 at 9:01pm Paul wrote:
Motherhood and fatherhood are what brings poets as well as poems into being. And whether or not poets choose to participate in these most important jobs of life is, of course, a matter of choice. Many seem to cop out as if fulfilling that function might stain the fabric of their art. (It's difficult to be a "poet-in-residence" with toddlers in tow.) Because all of us have had mothers & fathers - present or absent, for better or for worse - this fact will usually worm its way into our poems, if not as subject, then as subtext.

On September 10, 2009 at 10:24pm Sarah Busse wrote:
I just re-read this essay again... as a poet and mother hiding out in plain sight in Madison, WI, it resonates.

I think the unease Mlinko writes of and with may also have to do with the idea of ooets who write "about" motherhood. --Do we as poets write "about"? That's not my experience. Yes, my poems come out of my days, and the fact I'm a mom certainly defines those days to a large extent, but even when my kids show up (rarely) in the poems, I wouldn't say the poems are ABOUT motherhood.

On September 14, 2009 at 7:01pm JM wrote:

This piece identifies an important truth. Motherhood does not have dibs on making. There is a fundamental livelieness in creation, which we recognise when we see children get born and grow, just as we recognise it in nature, and in the growth of love relationships. I think when poets pick their subjects - which some prefer to do more selectively than others - they draw from this well of endless possibility whatever it is that they choose to write about. Many 'baby poems' in my opinion tend to identify the power of making overmuch with motherhood. The creation, as Mlinko points out, the proceeds of motherhood, the real living child is celebrated as the ultimate in making, more real than the work could ever be. Mlinko is honest in pointing out that her work is more of a simple pleasure, because it is a product controlled by her. Kids are a lot more wayward sometimes then baby poems seem to suggest. This essay admits that the child and the poem are different things. What they have in common is the relentless life that is both inspiration (inspiration - the taking in of breath) and death for both poem and child. But whereas the death or the mistreatment of the artificial creature is a tolerable thing, it is intolerable in the case of the child. The relationship with the real child is a lot less liberal than the relationship with the poem. The poem is not, and can never be, the incarnation of the child. Sometimes I feel that the mind-blowing (and mind-numbing) experience of motherhood is mined too earnestly by mothers seeking a bottom where there isn't one. Poems and things are different creatures. I can how it would make one uncomfortable to see poems tethered to subjects like motherhood, just as it would be uncomfortable to see the child tethered to the artificial creature, the poem. It's a sense of intruding parental ego - that's a risk for kids of any parents, not just poets. I suppose forcing poems into subjects is similar to sending kids to classes and burdening them with expectations. Kids don't go into poems, neither do oceans or anything else. But yet versions of them exist in poems, holding conversations with nature.

On September 16, 2009 at 10:27am Marcella D. wrote:

A provocative piece, and one that makes me wonder, or even begin to feel the insidious push of obligation, on how to fit the poetics of adoptive motherhood into what I find at the moment a just-about-inarticulate experience. My body was not involved in creating parenthood, DNA or "nature" does not stare back at me (rather, it's more a release into unknowns slowly becoming known), and I think Pinocchio is going to stay off our reading table until we're all more able to deal cognitively and emotionally with that "adoptive mother" of his (Howe is very good at poking her finger into those terrible visions of motherhood that lurk on the edges of our vision--her short story on a failed transracial adoption in "Economics" will forever chill my soul.) Anyway, in a huge HOWEVER, is all this something I want to or can write "about"/"into"/"around" etc?

On September 23, 2009 at 7:45pm Jeff Tigchelaar wrote:
"...but I also wonder how many males will fully appreciate (or even finish reading) this rich piece about literature and motherhood."

I just finished (and appreciated) the piece, having read bits here and there over the last 10 days or so between dad-taxi-ing Charlotte, 3, to preschool and ballet, hanging baby Sam's Fuzzy-Buns (cloth diapers) and their inserts out on the line for about the ninth time this week, exhausting the Crayolas in the Hello Kitty coloring book, and other such activities.

As a stay-at-home dad-poet, I would've finished reading Mlinko's article at any cost. (And I can't wait to check out more of Thomas "Father" Hood's works on the topic...)

On September 26, 2009 at 2:37pm Sophia wrote:
We want to live variously and in variety as writers, to encounter and engage privately and be sustained there--this point is well-taken in Mlinko's piece.

What troubles me is Mlinko's dehumanization of the marketplace. In this as in other articles she has written, any whiff of "marketing" eliminates the very human, conflicted presence at work behind many projects (and in this piece, she leaves us only to guess which poet-mom projects she'd like to set on fire).

Howe acknowledges the machine as a human-made thing. Where Howe distrusts and explores this, Mlinko wipes out in a seething silence inherent in several of her her critical pieces and blog posts.

It's a blindness she puts forth brazenly. It makes her difficult to read, worth reading, and when she is not writing about a poet she loves, stunted as a critic.

On October 1, 2009 at 1:11pm GSH wrote:

I will never be a Mother. Though as a quarterbackdad, I received the 'hike' from the Mommie-center and caught the ballbabies and we all ran for our lives...and into life together. From the zygote through the womb to presentation labia they all pushed into the room that is their life. At that moment, any preconceived ideas I'd formulated about mothers or motherhood or even the sense of sexual gratification as a prelude to a child were quashed and revamped into finest reality. I can and do sympathize, empathize and idealize (to the Best of my Man-notions anyway) the perils, perturbations and pitfalls of Motherhood in it's many stages. From what I now know of life after low-these-many-years (most of them lived way-back in the 'old century') is that equitable is only of the mind and limited by one's own vision of ultimate reality. Bearing of fruit from one's loin or from one's 'life' is hardly at all different (view the child as a graft of a fine and supple bud, kept alive upon wholesome, vigorous roots). Go proudly and worry not about difficulties, perceptions of others or even yesterday after the longing for tomorrow becomes today.

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This prose originally appeared in the September 2009 issue of Poetry magazine

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 Ange  Mlinko

Biography

Ange Mlinko was born in Philadelphia and earned her BA from St. John's College and MFA from Brown University. She is the author of four books of poetry: Marvelous Things Overheard (2013), which was selected by both the New Yorker and the Boston Globe as a best book of 2013; Shoulder Season (2010), a finalist for the William Carlos Williams Award; Starred Wire (2005), which was a National Poetry Series winner in 2004 and a . . .

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