“This State” by Catherine Jagoe

Catherine Jagoe


of motherhood is splintered, frenzied, but struggling to sound calm,
it’s soy beans on the door mat and raspberry jam on the baseboard,
it’s relinquishing utopian desires for quiet and cups of tea,
it’s never finishing a meal but eating scraps of your child’s food
after he has chewed it thoughtfully and you believed gratefully only
to disgorge it into your outstretched hand, his saliva your saliva,
it’s him reaching for your face in the dark and sinking back relieved,
it’s that first, longed-for kiss, slow and premeditated, laying aside
his things and walking up and kissing you full on the lips with his
tiny, soft, wet mouth, completely by surprise, total abandon,
it’s thinking that your mind will never have sharp edges or straight
lines again, it’s being beaten and kicked by a screaming, back-
bending, contortionist, hair-pulling dervish who later subsides into
swollen-eyed, red-faced, runny-nosed calm in your arms,
it’s the sink full of dishes, plastic cups, bibs, tea-leaves, peach-peel,
pasta shells and peas, it’s ketchup at every meal and wondering
how a body can survive on no meat or vegetables, ever,
it’s the way his body curves into yours and how your arms are
strong enough to lift all twenty-six pounds of him over and over
again at all the wrong angles, it’s shocking wide awake each time
he murmurs in his sleep next door, it’s the invisible rubber band
between you, the pain in your belly and chest when you’re apart,
it’s seeing your life upended, its contents strewn around as if by a
tornado, and picking your way through the wreckage with no time
to care because something like passion is driving you on.

from Rattle #21, Summer 2004

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