Wednesday, January 6, 2010

For Naomi - On Her Birthday



I am no poet.

Alas, I hereby beg the pardon of you who write poetry; my Dad, and Chani.
And you who read it with an ear for letting it "live in you"; my Dad and Chani...and most of the rest of us.

I beg this pardon for the poem I intend to share.

Which I share
Only because Aubrey wrote so beautifully this morning about her first daughter who turned 12 yesterday. Who is a lady in every respect.
She blooms.
Oh, how this little girl blooms.

Aubrey speaks of a photograph I took in 1997. This image I captured on 35mm, black and white, Ilford film that had been purchased in a large roll that was manually wound up into a used film canister in a dark closet so as not to expose it prematurely to light. I clicked with a fully metal, fully manual Nikon F3HP.
Those were the days before omni-digital.
I set the shutter speed.
I set the aperture.
I set the moment of our realization of the possibility of Naomi, in stone.

I took that picture when you, Naomi, were the spark of life itself.
and dividing...
and dividing asunder...
the philosophies of man that would have me believe that the hand of God played no part in the orchestration of you.
But He did.

Then I wrote a poem.

Which I do sometimes...shrouded in the pages of journals rarely opened by hands other than my own.

I prefer prose -the blessed meadow with no barbed wire, strong-arming me into submission.
Prose is...eating chocolate chip cookies and milk in my pajamas and slippers.
Poetry is...singing "Both Sides Now" on karaoke in front of Joni.
One is less comfortable than the other.

If the the photo were taken in the age of digital, I would place it here to couple it with this poem. If it were taken in the age of digital it would be a more beautiful photo with with two clicks of my mouse. Instead it is a black and white rendering of my mother braiding my sister, Aubrey's hair while sitting at the table in the kitchen of the home we grew up in. It is slightly over exposed and lacks the contrast Picasa grants me regularly on the photos I take the age of digital.

Aubrey was sick to her stomach that morning.
My Mother has NEVER missed an opportunity to inquire about,
wonder about,
dream about,
pray about,
welcome with the most brilliant joy,
the possibility
of a grandchild.

While her hands were full of Aubrey's hair, my Mom asked, "Could you be...?"
"Yes, I could be."
"Are you?"
"I don't know."

She was.

It felt like a secret joy when I learned my sister was going to have a baby. I liked it...a lot. She called me in England to tell me when Naomi was born. I was a missionary. I wept over my absence. I wept over Naomi's presence.

I wrote this poem while Aubrey was still expecting Naomi, and sent a copy to her and my Mom along with the framed photo for Christmas.

It isn't titled. Only dated: "Started Oct 97"

Those fingers have woven my hair and hers
Over and under, they swift become lures
Pulling us in for the wiping of tears
Letting us go with the coming of years

Motherhood spills from her heart and her hands
Into her daughter, now waiting she plans
For in your days of youth and mirth
to blessed daughters you have both given birth

I see you both now as women and friends
Yet childhood visions my memory lends
Blonde hair and blue eyes, bare feet and bare knees
We conquered backyards, sailed living room seas

Now you are mothers, I wait for my turn
Unsure of my future, of what I must learn
Yet like a child, I often am scared
Ever I'm worried I'll not be prepared

We have all three been student and teacher
Taken our turn as listener and preacher
Your mothering sermons fall not on deaf ears
You are gently, with love, allaying my fears

Twelve years on I have joined them in the bearing of children. Joined them three times over. I have wept the bitterest tears over my greatest despairs to these two women. My fear of those dark days when I am truly unfit to be a mother. They pick me up every time, casting out the notion that there is any other path equal to this one.

There is a line of mothers behind me, the women who have each borne Eve's pain until I am here to bear it myself. The true pain of motherhood comes after our bodies are broken by the entrance of life. And were it not for my sororal progenitors, namely the one I call Mom, and those truly sister to me, the pain of motherhood would break my soul. But they keep me whole. And with them, I learn that in light of Lehi's opposites, this pain is merely the footpath to life's most profound joys.
And I can't make that rhyme.

So I'm sticking with prose.


Jenn said...

Wow, you are incredibly beautiful. I'm very excited to get to know you more.

See you at the next book group!

Where did you serve in England? I was in the Leeds, England Mission.

shelley said...

I had to explain to my primary children last Sunday what "happy tears" are. To explain why Jesus wept after blessing the little Nephites. There is something about joy, when accompanied by the Spirit, that produces tears. While reading your post, and wiping away many tears of my own, I find myself re-thinking the phrase "happy tears." At the moment, I don't feel happy, exactly. I feel touched. Moved. Uplifted. Full of spiritual, sisterly and motherly emotions, connections, and understanding. Thank you for sharing your beautiful words and beautiful moments with the rest of us.

Menner said...

I'm weeping at the beauty of your writing and the truth of your words. I've been myself contemplating the bonding of women through motherhood, the generations of mothers and the wisdom and shared suffering that comes from it.

You, as always, give perfect voice to my unformed thoughts.

And the poem was wonderful. You have nothing to apologize for.

aubtobobtolob said...

I am so pleased that God saw fit to grant me with you as a sister. And that you saw fit to see past my deficiency's. Thank you for this post, you please me beyond expression. HDMSGBG!!

Chani Riiell said...

Oh my, Jessica.
(I used your whole name so you know the level at which my seriousness has reached.)
You are a gifted writer AND poet.

Sometimes when I write, and I feel like I need MORE eloquence, I think about what you might write.

It isn't often that I read someone's blog and it brings me to tears. I feel like I know a special secret because I've seen this photo. It's one of my very favorites, and although it wouldn't make much sense for me to own a copy, I kind of want one. It has such a rich story.

And then there's Nay.
Goodness, do we love her.
She keeps us all proper and polite. And when we stray, we can see it hurts her. And so we eagerly try to fix our habits and our words, if not only to heal Naomi's big heart.
I am so thankful for that girl.
And for you, my sister. And my eldest sister.
And the brother that I sometimes grew up with.
I'm a happy Leavitt girl.
And this was beautiful.

k_laurelle said...

Jessica the idea that you must rhyme when writing poetry is strictly absurd. I love you. Kristina

Shelby said...

Hi friend! I am so glad you commented on our blog because it led me to yours. :o)