Motherhood Literature + Art

When Babies Bring Poems by Emily Hayes

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Because our son, Benjamin, is already four years old, because we’re not sure if there are going to be other babies, and because we don’t know just how to explain this to him, after midnight, we’re pulled to his bedroom, just to check on him, just to make sure he hasn’t kicked his blankets onto the floor.  It is winter and a blue moon hangs heavy over our tree tops, sturdy oak and maple, bare branches covered with the season’s first snow.  We find him content and full of dreams, Peter, Paul, and Mary’s “Puff the Magic Dragon” coming over the speakers, and we kneel next to him and watch him breathe.  It would be nice to freeze this moment, to hold onto it, like the icicles cling to our window panes; it would be nice to stop time, to keep him small and ours, forever, but we’re tired, and eventually sleep pulls us back down the stairs, into our bed, and another night of his childhood gives way to early morning.

The next day, we talk babies again.  Well, at least there are cousins, he says, and I’m pretty sure I catch a glimpse of the reasonable man he will become.

Yes, there are two of them now, both born this winter, bringing with them an ache for years, not too far gone.

Mama, I’m glad you wrote them poems.  And because we’re not sure if there are going to be other babies, we welcome cousins with words and lines and even more love.

For Easton Grey Lawrence, on the night of his birth

This will be a story you hear your whole life:
Your aunts, against their better judgment,
decided it was safe to leave town the weekend
of your due date.  Before we left, we rubbed
your Mama’s belly and told her to keep you
cozy until we got home from our conferences.
Fancying ourselves historian and poet,
in Dallas and Hannibal, we spent the day
pretending we were important, we read Twain
and Tomlins, we drank too much wine.

You don’t know us yet, but this will make
sense later: I walked by the Mississippi River,
climbed Cardiff Hill, pretended I was Becky
Thatcher for a few hours, all before I got
the call that you would not wait for our return.
Mimi, with a nervous stomach since mid-
morning, avoided her cell phone; she
knew there was no way she could schedule
an early flight home.  And now, in hotel
rooms, hours away, receiving text messages

and pacing, we wonder why a November
conference, a hobby, or even a career was a good
idea at all.  At 3:30 am, the Pleiades shine
through my window, and I see your first picture.
Your eyes seem as though you have lived
a thousand years.  You stare back at me,
across the miles, the time that separates us,
strangely aware that, by tomorrow, you will
wind up in one aunt’s poem, in another’s
dissertation, but by Sunday, in our arms.

For Dylan Grace Larson, on New Year’s Eve morning, 2009

As luck and time and dates and doctors
would have it, we are away the morning
of your birth. We wake to gray sky
and thick fog, an ocean that mirrors
your mama’s heartbeat, waves, slow
and steady, bringing in a new year
and tonight’s half moon. And because
we aren’t in the waiting room with Nana
and Papa, because we only hear them
cry Oh, she’s so pretty from over the phone,
instead of watching you open your eyes
to the world, we see the sun shine across
our balcony and cast sudden shadows
on the living room floor. And though
there are hours between us, the day
itself seems to rise to greet you, to welcome
you, warmer and brighter than we ever could.

profile picEmily Hayes received her MA in English Literature from Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, where she continued post graduate work in creative writing.  She teaches American literature at Carbondale Community High School and is one of the poetry editors for The Village Pariah, a literary journal sponsored by the Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum.  Her works have previously appeared or are forthcoming in various journals, including The Mom Egg, Paterson Literary Review, Diverse Voices Quarterly, Big Lucks, Bayonet, New Scriptor, and Abandoned Towers.  Above all, she is known as Mama to her four-year-old son, Benjamin, a little boy who already understands the power of poems.


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