Many thanks to Carmen for donating this poem, which is a beautiful meditation on one of the biggest changes anyone can experience – those first days of new parenthood. On 30 June, Carmen will be performing more poems about the ‘fourth trimester’ period of motherhood at a very special pecha-kucha cabaret Deranged Poetesses : Mothers, as well as delivering a creative writing workshop called We Think Back Through Our Mothers. Tickets are ‘on sale’ now (the workshop is free, and the performance Pay What You Decide, but grab a place fast!)
Bringing the Baby Home
– We weren’t ready; we still had splinters in our floor when she woke up at 4am.
– She’d put the Christmas tree up.
– We didn’t like the lights they showed the bare between the green.
– She took her bag but we’d seen – it didn’t have everything she’d need.
– She wasn’t ready.
– She left it all to the last month. Why?
– We knew.
– She was frightened he wouldn’t come.
– We saw her in the spare room.
– We left the light on.
– She prayed.
– Who to? Us?
– Maybe. Not God.
– No, God is a love-shaped hole inside her.
– When she came home she only put on small lights.
– It hurt her to walk.
– It wasn’t the splinters in the floor.
– We could hardly see her but we did not stop looking.
– We could hardly see but we heard her.
– And him.
– He cried a lot.
– Yes, he cried a lot in the beginning.
– He didn’t like sleeping.
– We remember the night she was singing.
– Yes, it was a bad sound.
– Her singing?
– No, her shaking. It was the fever that made her sing.
– We felt her burning through the walls.
– No-one came.
– They did. They came to see the baby.
– What was she singing?
– “Who wants to live forever?”
– She was there in the bed shaking the splinters loose from the floor.
– What did they do?
– I told you – they didn’t see her.
– We saw.
– Do you remember the first night he didn’t cry?
– We saw her put him on her belly.
– He turned his head left, right, left, right until he fitted exactly under that bone above her breast.
– We helped.
– Yes. She put one hand on his back and we kept the floor quiet.
– We closed the door but left the curtains open.
– In case she was afraid to sleep.
– Did they see her?
– No, that doesn’t matter.
– We saw her.
Carmen Marcus is a performance poet and author from Saltburn by the Sea. Her poetry has been commissioned by BBC Radio, Durham Book Festival and The Royal Festival Hall. Her debut novel HOW SAINTS DIE, was published with Harvill Secker in 2017 and has been longlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize. Follow Carmen on Twitter @Kalamene
This poem relates to Carmen’s ACE funded project The Book of Godless Verse. This project will culminate in an anthology celebrating the messiness of everyday life and the rituals we handmade to deal with it. You can find out more at https://thebookofgodlessverse.wordpress.com