With Love and Horses and Rage and Love,
I should warn you I’m driving while emotional
Lacking armament for when grief
Frantic for the photograph her hair
She was there where I unfurled
Wanting to wear any scrap a girl
A picture of a picture none of them are
There the city river partly
Why aren’t there more words for what’s forgetting
I am casting for the question
Postpartum quarrying or
Ice fishing on the melt
Want you to tell me about then
We were always draped around
Windows I would gladly tell you who
That girl was twenty-four
This one’s not easy she would’ve liked
Standing next to the nurse who asks where’s
Anyone who would remember is far
From the twentieth floor paper balloons
Smudges of light like in the play
Florescent paint was fireflies
That girl was twenty a forlorn
I was not a brilliant student
Each eye contains a mirror
A pair she would’ve
Wanted to bring myself proximate to myself
The mirrors reflect blue light
I wish I had told her
The white of the eyes so white
With Love and Fatigue and Rage and Love,
Already this symptom asking how can this hold. All questions are
about the world. How to cling to it. She says she was afraid to go to
the protest. In our new country I lie awake thinking about prose. How
to hook it. I am stuck in a circuit. In our new corporation the skinny
blonde behaves badly and is still adored. How it reels. I open the
schedule and see that the male colleague is given twice the time. How
to stave it off. It’s between suspicion and superstition. I lie awake
thinking about the past. How it staggers. She says she could be a one-
woman Trail of Broken Treaties. How to cast through it. In our new
corporation it’s all suspicion. How to lasso it. They call it his
whiplash style. In our new country I don’t know where to chalk the
timeline. She says that reading keeps her awake. How it lurches. I cry
at the same stupid scene I did two decades ago. I lie awake thinking
about elapsing. How to get over it. I lie awake thinking about when it
can become a story. How distant. How to hold it already without
repeating how to hold it.
With Love and Terror and Rage and Love,
I had a baby. Before, I wasn’t sure
how to react when people said You’ll be
a good mother. Like when my mother says
You potty-trained so early because you were
so agreeable. It’s true that having a baby
has made me more generous with
my social media likes and maybe more
ambidextrous in general. Also
that the everyday becomes akin
to camping, creaturely sounds hauling up
from sleep, fire feeding on my birthplace,
fire and flood and plastic and make do.
What world have I brought you to, that
you will have to spend your life in salvage.
In the hospital I keep thinking that
Plath line. After, I can’t seem to say
I gave birth straight. I know
that this is bad thinking. Before, I’d had
a dream in which a friend demoed
a c-section with pumpkin and cleaver.
Then placenta secreted a cleft;
we packed and coiled ourselves as sunlight
slunk around the edges of the high-
rises. It was clear and crisp and blue.
I will myself wide but miss the deadline
and induction fails. How could you
know, the doctor says. From gurney, ceiling
tiles blink just like in the movies.
The placenta is heart-shaped, the midwife says.
In the hospital I’m naked for days,
abstract filmstrips playing at various speeds.
It’s shaped like a heart. First I think the blood
is urine, catheter come loose perhaps
with other organs, a vague rupturing.
You test your dolphin language, your hilarious
vibrato. Should I be losing this much blood
I keep asking, groping toward time. You have
to contract to stop bleeding. The milk
comes on too strong so overnight they pummel
my tits and take away my soup. We rub
your ears to keep you feeding. Your tree frog phase.
I try to remember that you came to safety.
We wear each other like willows. Weeks
pass before I realize that while nursing
I can read sci-fi about the end of the world.
I become collector and arranger of
cushions, terrified of doorframes and
table edges. I can’t remember the term
for end of the world. I try to look it up
but the VPN is down. I will admit:
you are an adorable asp on the tit.
The pink carnations drop their heavy heads,
the Italian teacher shuffles upstairs.
I’ll call him Little Lucky, the midwife said.
Right: apocalyptic. What’s the purpose
of this ever-diminishing recall?
The books all say that baby shit doesn’t
smell that bad, but after a while
it smells like baby shit. A friend asks
what the indoor AQI is. That’s not
that bad, he says. I am shocked the first
time I spew milk over the sheets. What
a grab bag, this existence. It’s like LA
on a really smoggy day. I’m making
a selfish heap of nestled twilights.
We wait to hear whether a friend’s father
has cancer. What world, endless shitty
news, turning toward your curtailed wail
in the dark. Afraid even to wonder
what kinds of persons you will be.
You startle like a supernatural being.
How breathing makes you dip. How sometimes
you vacate yourself. Your chest moving
forceful, something trying to get out.
The day before birth, your ribs on-screen
were like striated corset, interior
of the whale, cavernous cathedral,
motes in strips of light. How breathing
makes you bob, pulled by some private current
or otherworldly tide. I heard your heart
racing ahead, twisting, I first thought like
a horse but no, like a locomotive,
you are coming closer still and still
receding, a dusty distance dance.
Stephanie Anderson is the author of three books of poetry, most recently the If You Love Error So Love Zero (Trembling Pillow Press), as well as several chapbooks. Her work has appeared in Guernica, MAKE Magazine, Spittoon (Beijing), The Offing, and elsewhere. She co-edits the micropress Projective Industries and currently lives in Beijing.