Blessed be the Lord; who worked a miracle of unfailing love for me when I was in sore straits (like a city besieged)
We took our firstborn to the Cloisters, his first Easter.
You photographed me holding him in the Medieval
herb garden based on millefleurs tapestries,
gray skies, diffuse light, my new linen outfit loose
on my loose new mother’s body. The baby’s eyes
looked ancient, peering out below his little blue hat.
I do not know who was saved on that cold Easter,
only that the baby’s grandmother exhibited
towards him the kind of raw adoration
given the Messiah by the humble shepherds
and their sheep. I thought I wanted to be a mother.
It was too late to change my mind.
I wanted to be home lying down, listening
to medieval chant and polyphony by Anonymous 4.
Green grow’th the holly….so doth the ivy
The garden was only a little green that day,
though in a matter of weeks the new shoots
would push up, the everyday miracle
of the growth cycle helped along by
the world’s best horticultural curators.
We can believe something is always growing,
something else dying, and even in growth death
is contained, blah blah, O the cycle, the DNA,
the damnable incessant blank life force.
The baby boy reposes unimpressed
in Mother’s arms, blinks at his dominion’s
dull glare, admits no distractions from his business—
to see and own it all, seen and unseen.
The clowns in the pediatric surgical suite
waiting room were two smallish women, chipper
in white makeup. One played ukulele.
Star light, star bright, heads tilted together
to find their harmony. They didn’t know
our daughter’s name was Stella, meaning star,
or that we were waiting for them to take her,
put her to sleep, cut open her chest
and fix her heart with Gore-Tex®, a miracle fiber
that would live in her body the rest of her life
after healthy tissue had grown over it, closing the hole
she was mistakenly born with. Stella was hungry, didn’t get
why she couldn’t nurse. She was hungry, dammit, could smell
the milk I would have to pump while she was in surgery.
Nine months old, the same time outside
as she’d been inside, still my body’s job to feed her.
In certain religions clowning is a ritual to avert evil,
deflecting demonic attention from serious religious activities.
These clowns found us in our little hiding place though
I didn’t want us to be found, I wanted to cry alone
like you did when you vanished to the restroom,
left me with my hungry crying baby who could not understand
why Mother didn’t feed her, who never gave up
not even when we might have wished she would.
The wait was longer than we had been told,
the lights brighter than seemed necessary,
families unnaturally jolly with their sick children.
The scene shrank to her cries, your reddened eyes.
When I get to the kitchen she’s already dancing,
boogeying down to the radio—Here’s one
from nine-teen-six-ty-four—we barely get reception
but by some miracle Rhythm Review is loud and clear
on WBGO out of Newark, New Jersey.
I grab her hands and start to twist, and when we insist
her brother puts down his shiny handheld game
and joins us on the stained linoleum.
Stella works her little mojo for all its worth,
tiny features all a-beam, soft arms and legs
barely under control. Next up is Smokey Robinson,
“Tears of a Clown,” that old American song I never fully got
till I heard the English Beat’s version—Ranking Roger
singing clone for clown—in 1984, I edged my off-white
knock-off Keds closer to the boy (skanking, soaked
white-shirted back) I wanted the way I wanted
patty melts or more beer—the cut just two and a half minutes,
so short you’d almost miss it before the next track, “Rough
Rider,” a hundred quavers slower and a lot less sweat.
I had not yet learned that wanting makes nothing so.
I had not yet found and lost you. I lose myself
in anamnesis, kinesis, pure pleasure of musculature,
three bodies moving, mine plus two my body
once contained, And this cruddy Queens kitchen
swirls into solid gold thanks to Felix Hernandez,
the Maestro of the Groove, Smokey singing with his Miracles
to a circus of flute and bassoon and hey, I’m dancing,
I’m dancing right here, right now, with mine.
Also by Amy Lemmon (see all)
- Another Day - February 18, 2019
- The Miracles - February 18, 2019