The Last Childbearing Years
Deliciously, all that we might have been,
all that we were— fire, tears,
wit, taste, martyred ambition—
stirs like the memory of refused adultery
the drained and flagging bosom of our middle years.
–Adrienne Rich, “Snapshots of a Daughter-in-Law”
The green leaves: so young against the sun.
How our bodies betray themselves; spine
of white pine, all its vertebrae clinging
to the last of the day’s light—
what insects have fed on it? What birds
housed their young… it being an instrument
and now, not, and now: what? We call it
dignity, what the young fear in their lushness
but the fear once swallowed can’t be swallowed again.
It isn’t the age that tortures; it is the anticipation of the age…
the sons who will forget us, not being forgotten;
the purpose that ruins us and not its loss.
What is empty is not there. Does the past mock
like a calling bird? Do lost opportunities rattle
like phantom limbs? Or what is never tasted,
never remembered? Houses that weren’t built,
children who weren’t born and something, something
else… the scent almost perceptible; the sky always
hanging just out of reach.
They tell me you won’t remember this time
I am weaving around you like daisies. That our walks
by the stream are only burblings; that my work is you
but it can’t be recognized or rewarded as work,
its meaning uncertain— but it must be done
and certainly not in the wrong way.
Dusting the whatnots: waste of a mind;
wasted body becoming an abandoned nest,
a field gnarled and burly with weeds:
eventually past fallow; past use
having been granted only that tenderest of privileges
which withers, then rots. I watch my body make a cage of itself:
sag and bulge with importance that is not its own,
leaving behind the shell that is me, and the me—
being for someone else, when it is not wanted or needed…
what does it mean? What is it to itself and how does it stand
in the mirror without its usual measurements?
Don’t stand at the foot of the bed.
Preserve the allure: don’t see the flower
bulge and pulsate; expand like the moon
which swallows the world, only for another
to emerge. Don’t see how everything comes from this place:
smallest doorway, passage between unbeing and being,
portal. If you see this work, see how the body
is not what it seems: how flesh rips like silk—
not an oil painting, not a porn movie or needlework, not anything
cultivated to the delicate preferences of the eye. Only how power
gushes in laps of grey and blood ; the sheer will of the body
to stretch itself, to reach. How the body houses a sea, all life
teeming in a moment. Only a woman can do this. Only we call them
beautiful. Only we call them frail.
Ornamental, which adorns, which complements
as though we ourselves are not real, as though we only reflect
what is real… because we unfold, because we reveal,
because our bodies are the flowers which weather,
emerging each spring in spite of elements or desire.
We bear what is necessary— beauty being secondary,
beauty being cultivated, prized, heralded. But the blossom
is not the center; coiled roots reach what is essential,
what sustains. Harvested, we bloom again.
Unwanted, we bloom until that season has past.
Spent, what is sewn from us continues the world.
The Last Childbearing Years is © Lindsey Bellosa