Two Poems

Two Poems

Jennifer Givhan

Girlchild Prophetess

My daughter in her white-washed jean dress with butterfly skirt
says she wants to stay home from school with me & my
immediate thought: pull the car away from the drop-off curb
with her still in it. Adulting, I’ve heard, is understanding our
mother’s anger when we forgot to take the chicken out of the
freezer. I’m not a grownup mother. I never let anything thaw. I
won’t even handle raw poultry. I wanted to bring my daughter
home because I’m lonely & she says the loveliest philosophical
things in the way of an 8-yr-old girlchild I don’t think I’ve
traumatized or injected with the venom of girlwounds as I was
in my wired girlcoop. No backhand popping her mouth. No sick
hand pulling the gauze of her butterfly skirt. I sometimes re-live
through her. She takes me through the dark forests, teaches me
which wolves are prey. How not to be afraid. Still, the
motherfear returns. It never fades, that tummysick, as if I were
highwiring on my head. I don’t say this aloud but wonder if
she’s portending some terrible fate, the way of empaths &
witches, which I’m gathering like dandelions in her sweetfields,
relearning what my battered mother stripped. I almost drive
away, my girl beside me. Instead, I open the door & spill her
out. From cavemouth or into I cannot know & haven’t known
since she slid from me screaming, but so damn brave I follow
her, my motherheart stringing behind her kite of stillwet wings
she holds & asserts into the future of sky This way


The Birds

nest in the stinging mallow
where an orange-
eyed mother guarding her slick new birth

regards me with the care-
ful measure I’ve given every stranger since
the rupture Trick of the mind telling

a story that coheres that doesn’t ooze undone
as I’ve oozed hatchling as the click
of an oven timer gone off early & trusted

over a prick to the gooey center I pass her thus
each wary for our own
reason I flick pictures of the patient mother

who at first glance seems to smother
her nestlings their parkas marking days
into gossamer feathers I remember

as the softness of before Always in a story
must come a time when nothing

happened An unwinding a zeroing a settling
the score of another’s story end
Trick of the heart not to see time for what it is

A thief a distraction a trickster god
come to feign with ribbon & bow
shrouding scissors behind his back for clipping

at the umbilicus
For in the final shutter I startle
mother & fledglings

into a wreck of plume & reed
chiding myself for abandoned nest &
later & always concrete proof

smattering the yard
those younglings weren’t ready
Not by far

*From Belly to the Brutal by Jennifer Givhan (2022), courtesy of Wesleyan University Press

Posted: October 6, 2022 at 8:55 pm

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