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The Babies

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Some thought it was because of all the babies I suddenly seemed to be having. Others, that I should pay for the damages. Fact is, I wasn’t getting any older, so I bought a small aquarium, and skipped town. Took up with a toy store owner until he left me for a more beautiful robot. Took up with a reader of instructional booklets. Never mind. I was lost. By the time I arrived at Mrs. Greenaway’s, it was clear I was nowhere at all. In exchange for room and board, I’d rearrange her furniture, her birthmarks, her quiet animals, until they took on more satisfying shapes. Sometimes the shapes were simple, like a mustache or a pipe. Sometimes they were more complicated arrangements, like the one of dead Mr. Greenaway’s closed barbershop. Over the years, as Mrs. Greenaway and I became more and more vague, the shapes did too. For identification purposes, we’d give them names like She Wasn’t Fooling Anyone, She Was Hurt and She Was Hurt Bad or The Insides of Doctors. One night when I was working on a piece I thought I’d call Symphony, Symphony, the shapes began to slip out of my hands. At first, as Mrs. Greenaway remembers, the sound of broken glass. Then the trumpets. Then the terrible music of all those babies I once seemed to be suddenly having, marching, like soldiers, in rows. Then their round wet bellies coming towards me. Mrs. Greenaway still talks about how expertly they gathered me into their tiny arms. And how they took me away not like a prisoner. But like a mother. Into a past I still swear I never had.

Sabrina Orah Mark, “The Babies” from The Babies. Copyright © 2004 by Sabrina Orah Mark. Reprinted by permission of Saturnalia Books.
Source: The Babies (Saturnalia Books, 2004)
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The Babies

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  • Sabrina Orah Mark grew up in Brooklyn, New York. She earned a BA from Barnard College, an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and a PhD from the University of Georgia. She is the author of the book-length poetry collections The Babies (2004), winner of the Saturnalia Book Prize chosen by Jane Miller, and Tsim Tsum (2009), as well as the chapbook Walter B.’s Extraordinary Cousin Arrives for a Visit & Other Tales from Woodland Editions.
    The poems in The Babies are haunted by invented characters and fabulous details; mysterious fates, wars, and historical events are hinted at, and characters navigate relationships and terrors in a series of surreally twisted prose poems. Commenting on her unique style, Mark, in an interview for Apostrophe Cast, explained that her maternal family speaks Yiddish and that her syntax has been influenced by their speech patterns.
    Mark’s awards include a National...

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