by mraynes

My little sister is a big fan of Def Jam Poetry. Earlier this week she posted a poem on her blogthat literally took my breath away. It was as if the poet had looked into my mind and translated onto the page everything I think, feel, fear about being a mother.

I’m not sure I’ve ever felt so vulnerable as I did when I read this poem and saw every aspect of myself there. And yet, I saw the beauty and complexity in what I’m endeavoring, in how I’m going about mothering. And I had hope for the first time in a long time that I will not destroy my children in this process. I saw that my questions and silence, ambivalence and depression, fears and devotion are what make me a mother.

And so on this Mother’s Day I share with you, myself.

Apology to My Unborn
i fear that you will never sleep
that like these fingers long and too thin
to hold rings and commitments
you will inherit your mother’s insomnia
her restless spirit
child, i wish I could quiet all your questions
tell you the exact number of stars
show you where the moon goes at sunrise
i wish i could temper your fear of good byes
prove that the earth spins regardless of whether or not you are awake to see it
i wish i could give you one morning worth rising for
I pray that you can close your eyes
see the world through the only thing i have fit to pass down to you
this heart of a dreamer
but i want you stronger sooner
want you kind and brave
want you unafraid to fight
for what you believe and need
want you beautiful and free
i want you nothing like your mother
this girl trembling before each new day
frightened of herself love
this girl who finds the word ‘woman’ a cloak too heavy to don
most days
you deserve someone who carries the moniker like banner
wears it easy like sun in summer
but, child, what can i tell you of peace
when you were probably conceived in a cacophony of questions
still i think of you as possible
can almost smell the breath of god light against you skin
can hear you, softness, eyes closed laughing
real as the beating staccato against my chest
but future, i fear if i
cling too fiercely to your unconditional
that i will bruise you
because i can not hold my breath long enough to shrug off these imperfections
i wonder, if they will make me too nervous to nurse you
leave me unable to find a place where just loving you is enough
child I will begin counting those same stars
and in dreams these arms will hold you
whisper you soft into a still slumber
these hands, small and strong, like your grandmother
will build for you a world of colored things
will pray, palms towards the heaven, for a quiet
without the tumble and chaos of
words and worry
child i pray that you know
that though feared, you are wanted
know how you’ve lived lifetimes in this hollow expansion of breath
know how easy you’ll fit
in my spaces
need you to know this now before time and distances help me
to forget to tell you often enough
i hope that we will not be too much like shadow and brick
voices thrown against walls
these hands are tired of building
and child i hope you will forgive my quiet
those moments when i just can’t find the words to speak
i hope my silences don’t scare you
won’t have you questioning your worth
have you turning towards friends and strangers for comfort
i want you to like me
to know me
to know that there are moments when i will wrestle with moments
that shade my best intentions
moments like now
your mother
lays awake
watching, yet, another morning from the wrong side
practicing slow this breathing that will usher you one day into this world
here, i can, almost conjure up a proper image of you
i still fear that you will never know peace
but i already know i need your laughter
need the gentle curve of your fingers
need your eyes locked on mine
need you here now for balance
but my future,
i will deny you your right to exist
before i pass on this
cracked soul of a storyteller
you deserve more than
this threat of me as your mother
still attempting my own world of colored things
so child, just promise me that you will be, eventually
i need your possibility
like i need a night worth sleeping for
-Bassey Ikpi
(You can see a video of the author performing her poem here.)