Like learn to be alone, expect suffering

Two poems by Katie Darby Mullins

Genesis 30:6, Rachel Gets Her Wish

A man, a woman, another woman, and then the child who belongs to all three of them, come screaming and beautiful into the world… — John Darnielle

  • The night is blue, not black, and punctured
  • with dots of white: the lights of the city
  • illuminating what used to be mystery.
  • And the moon, swollen and full, strikes Rachel
  • like a rock: heavy and bitter, hard and unyielding.
  • Rachel watches the man who waited fourteen years
  • sleep like nothing at nighttime matters — his chest
  • rising and falling in the slatted beams of light.
  • She asked for this. She pictures the other woman
  • growing large and giving birth, imagines the first
  • moment she sees her baby — Rachel’s baby.
  • That can only happen once: a baby can only be seen
  • for the first time once. Across the room,
  • a bassinet is full with a struggling sleeper, a boy
  • Jacob brought to her — like she asked him to do.
  • She had not thought beyond the burning need;
  • didn’t think of moments where the boy, defiant,
  • would look at her with eyes she didn’t recognize.
  • She hadn’t thought to combing hair half-Jacob’s,
  • half-someone else’s. She hadn’t thought of quiet
  • nights, when she would wish she’d never asked,
  • or more truthfully, that she could bring the baby
  • inside herself, watch him grow, and make him hers.

For My Unborn Nephew

“Take no advice, not even this” — John Steinbeck

  • If you knew that winter captured spring,
  • you’d come later — but my cliché advice
  • Stay warm, stay safe, is lost with other things.
  • March spins like a record, but never sings —
  • I want to scratch the needle over all of this ice.
  • If you knew that winter captured spring
  • you’d stay coiled in the womb, a ball of string —
  • but even hibernation comes with a price.
  • Stay warm, stay safe; my words mean other things,
  • like learn to be alone, expect suffering —
  • but my warnings won’t mean you aren’t surprised,
  • and when you learn that winter captured spring,
  • maybe you’ll be superstitious and cling 
  • to the inside with soft fingers, dark eyes.
  • Stay warm, stay safe — I don’t know other things
  • that an aunt should say, or how to take the sting
  • from life — now, I hope good wishes will suffice.
  • You must feel that winter has swallowed spring,
  • Stay warm, stay safe — you’ll learn the other things.

Katie Darby Mullins teaches creative writing at the University of Evansville. She was nominated for a Pushcart Prize, has edited a rock ’n’ roll crossover edition of the poetry journal Measure, and been published or has work forthcoming in Hawaii Pacific Review, Harpur Palate, Prime Number, Big Lucks, Pithead Chapel, and The Evansville Review. She was also a semifinalist in the Ropewalk Press Fiction Chapbook competition and the Casey Shay Press poetry chapbook competition. She’s lead writer and founder of the music blog Katie Darby Recommends

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