Don't Read This Poem (An Invitation)
My daughter calls from the other room; she's found a family dead.
All dead, all but one small baby hidden among the bedding. A family
is dead in my room too, leaving another orphaned baby.
Don't read this poem. My teachers told me, don't say that.
Don't mention you're writing a poem. As if the reader,
dear reader, won't notice. And don't say anything weird.
Over the top, they would say. There are rules in poetry.
I always seem to break them. Perhaps I also shouldn't mention
that I am writing this on red
paper. Blood red. What I picked from the scrap bin, coincidence
or synchronicity. By the time you see this, though, the red
will have turned to white the way a face loses its color in death.
Two families dead, two orphaned babies. But they aren't people.
We're in the animal-care rooms in the museum's basement.
The babies are mice, one tan, one maroon, both just starting
on the first hint of hair, eyes sealed shut. Orphaned.
Of course, they will die without their mothers; we all know that.
They're not weaned. But I am, so why the fuss?
Okay, I'm an orphan. But, I'm also a mother. I put the babies
in my blouse to nurse from my own breasts. Could you just not
read this? I know you'll disapprove, but that's what I did.
It's sort of circular, really, since I'm the orphan now.
But I'm sixty, my parents both dead at eighty-three. No infant, I.
In the dream, the babies grow to the size and shape of ferrets
and move inside my silk blouse like snakes, undulating, sinuous.
In my black velvet skirt and blood-red jacket, I hide myself
from everyone so these babies can nurse and live.
I am the orphan baby. I am the snake maiden, I am the mother,
I am the grandmother. I am as tiny as a newborn mouse
and I am the crone slipping into the grave.
But you knew all that already, and knew the dual nature
of my Geminian twins, the yin and yang of me. Even,
perhaps, the strange depths to which I'd sink to survive this grief.
But did you remember that you had a breast and milk
you could offer an orphan? If you've gotten this far,
you could hold me.
Mary Stebbins Taitt
070206c, 1st Tuesday, February 06, 2007Here is the original dream:
Nursing Orphans and Outside Approval, Dream Sunday, February 04, 2007
Sara and I are in animal care and discover that in two cages of mice in two separate rooms, the mother mouse and all the babies but one (each) are dead. She discovers one in one room and I discover the other in the other room. The babies are very small. They've just begun growing hair. One is yellowish tan and the other sort of maroon-colored. I take them into my blouse to nurse them at my own breasts so that they won't die.
The scene cuts to a huge science fair. I am the head judge or some other very important person. I am wearing a wine-colored velvet jacket, a long black velvet skirt and a wine & black silk blouse. The baby mice have grown to the size and shape of young ferrets and are living inside my blouse, not weaned yet. They move sinuously, bulging the blouse oddly. I worry about offending people with the snake-like babies nursing inside my beautiful clothes. I worry about it so much that I find a private place to sit, assist the babies in their nursing, and worry about what I should do.
This is the second dream in two nights that involve nurturing young of other species.
The dream poem I wrote yesterday was made of dreams from two different night—the monkey dream and rose petal dream were originally two separate dreams.
I don't see much potential in this dream for a poem. If the monkey dream was weird, this one is weirder and more "unacceptable."