Motherhood Literature + Art

Tina Cane – Poetry

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Tina Cane


Come Correct


Continue to verb    Orlando urges me     via early morning text

I’m trying I write back     Continue to create he says     as I get out of bed

raise the window shade

distance means     the end of snow days

so I make a dozen snowballs     and keep them in the freezer     after lunch

I give my son     a stone to tumble     in his pocket     for when we walk the woods

I call it his thinking stone     instead of the worrying kind     your thoughts are your own

I tell him     as are mine

Pray here, you can ask for anything

whisper the trees     but I have only enough     reverence for words

looking down I see     I’m knee-deep in leaves     it’s hard to make out

where the yellows begin     the ambers end

I wonder

how to teach my children     to come correct     why such words should stick

thick and metallic between my lips     when I move to form them

These tongues     

full of nostalgia     my young student writes     I love them     I have not loved     being so alone    

Sometimes a notebook     I tell him     is just a notebook     sometimes love is a butterfly
being crushed by a car

it troubles me

that worry can be a form of prayer     as if losing sleep     is a type of pleading

pleading a kind of church     but I don’t pray     and try not to worry much




+++++++++for Nicole

Sometimes     it’s a shock event     in lieu of a total coup

an instance more akin      to the slow overthrow      of familiar systems

how the course of a day     lapses into years

then breaks

I used to say     The day is long      Seasons pass     back when Samantha

would have her toddlers in pajamas     by four thirty in the afternoon     It’s dark out   

They don’t know     she’d laugh and I ‘d laugh

across the phone line

which could have been a sea     for how vast the distance felt     treading February

as we were     newer versions of our selves     we ourselves hardly even knew

and now Nicole

has cancer

and yet appears more radiant than ever     as if lit from within      by the threat of death

she projects     such a fierce desire to live     I want to tell everyone     about her

poems which she reads      on the internet     from her bed

which stun me

for the clarity     I force upon myself     by witnessing them

in the dark     as my family sleeps     phone aglow in my palm

shock of birds

shock of scans

shock of nodes

shock of breast-

less woman kind

+++++++++at the end Nicole

always places her hand     flat on the screen     as if pressing it

against mine     not to say Stop     or to dispute my meaning

but to hold me     in the feeling of her thought


When the Let-Down Was Good


There’s a sensation     when the milk lets down     so satisfying and specific

that to this day     seeing my children eat well     fills me with a comfort

that is almost molecular

similar to how I’m feeling     the voice of Beatrice Dalle

right now     raspy with the sound of something hard won     as she reads on French radio

from Simone de Beauvoir’s Une Mort Douce     her cadence the force of what

a mother’s death means     among other things

Je dois m’organiser en consequence

Simone says     meeting me in my car     with my daughter and her friend

snared in traffic     on our way home from school     I’m gripping the wheel

like our lives depend      on my total control of the vehicle     bumper to bumper

between Dunkin Donuts and the State House

going only where the voice

of Beatrice Dalle leads me    rough and lustrous as a gem     slipping from grasp

to other dimensions of memory

somewhere else I once wrote

When I say I’ve been dutiful     I mean I’ve been organized

meaning if     I’m screaming in my head     at the man texting

in the Camry in front of me     to Just go!     I’m really calling

for all the mysteries     to make themselves known

and at once

but what I also want

is for nothing to fade     for things to stay

golden as what I made     when the let-down was good

Tina Cane serves as the Poet Laureate of Rhode Island where she is the founder and director of Writers-in-the-Schools, RI. She co-produces the podcast, Poetry Dose, and  is the author of The Fifth Thought (Other Painters Press, 2008), Dear Elena: Letters for Elena Ferrante, Once More With Feeling, and Body of Work. Tina is a 2020 Poet Laureate Fellow with the Academy of American Poets and runs the distance reading series, Poetry is Bread.


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