Birth and Death

It’s been over a week since I posted “Sex,” a poem from The Truth About Death which was one of the four that addressed “the more universal, the more silence.”  I said I’d post the other three by the end of the week, but instead I was awakened early Thursday morning by a call from Adrienne, letting me know her labor had started.

At 9:30 that night, Ava was born, a pink package of baby life finally slipping free of the birth canal (lots of heroic pushing on Adrienne’s part) and seeming to fly up to Adrienne’s chest. I know it was the midwife who caught Ava and guided her up to Adrienne, but from my vantage, looking over Adrienne’s shoulder as I helped her hold up her head and shoulders to curl around her womb and push, it looked like a magic dance, a bright red face then chest then wormy body suddenly in the world and then snuggled against Adrienne as the cord pulsed between them.

So what does a birth and a new baby mean in the context of a poem about death, a poem written when I was entirely absorbed in the exit from life rather than the entrance?  It means it takes me over a week to write a new post, because my days have been full with being an extra set of hands for Adrienne and Matt and Emilio — shopping, cooking, cleaning up, washing and folding laundry, holding Ava, walking and rocking Ava, driving Adrienne and Ava to appointments, sleeping with Ava sleeping on my chest.  Right now she’s cuddled up against me in a fabric sling, squeaking and squealing, those tiny baby noises that come back in a flood of memory once I hear them again.  Her breath is so quick and shallow it feels like there’s a bird at my breast.

But it’s a person.  A birth.  So far from what was happening in my life when I wrote the poem “Death.”

Death

You took the crash course, and me along with you
because where else would I be except beside
you? Now I study death with the deliberate
focus you loved. People are afraid of me,
especially couples. I smoke on the porch
in your jacket, making the brown moleskin smell,
watching planes cross the dark sky as they fly
in and out of the airport to the south. I think
about quitting. What do we each know now
that the other doesn’t? And our children,
think of all they know that we didn’t.

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About Grace Mattern

Grace Mattern is a poet, writer, mother, grandmother, partner, friend, family member, gardener, triathlete, hiker and for 30 years was the Executive Director of the NH Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence. She resigned her position at the Coalition on June 15, 2011 in order to concentrate on her writing, while continuing to engage in the movement to end violence against women as a consultant and advisor. Her chapbook Fever of Unknown Origin was published in 2001 and her full-length poetry book The Truth About Death was published in 2012.
This entry was posted in Family, Grief, Life Changes, Moving On, Poetry. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Birth and Death

  1. johncoyote says:

    “What do we each know now
    that the other doesn’t? And our children,
    think of all they know that we didn’t.”
    Life is learning. Children can be the teachers also.A powerful and thought provoking blog.

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