New At This

Like a cat she curled around her boy,

pulling him close to warm and feed him,

hoping that when company came, curious

and laden with gifts that no baby needs

unless they could be swapped for things more

useful, like clothes in graduating sizes and blankets,

–you can never have too many blankets—

though to tell the truth a stack of diapers would be

best of all, and after that a proper cradle,

she might lift his tiny hand for a tiny wave and

perhaps reveal his tiny face for the chorus

of ooos and aaaahs, without letting them

see that all she had to wrap him in was cloth torn

from her clothes, and when he wasn’t in her arms

he slept in a manger on a pile of fresh hay.

After all she’d been through, scorn was not welcome.

© Dana Hughes 1.7.15

One thought on “New At This

  1. You have such a gift for rendering momentous things in intimate language. This is a mother’s unique perspective–and a young, poor mother, at that. This angle of vision would never have occurred to me, an old white guy whose acquaintance with such maternal intimacies is now reified in memory. I have noted before your capacity to stretch a sentence poetically to its breaking point in order to gather a larger field of observation in a single look; you do it again here, with warmth and yet a growing sense of practicality, then shame, and ultimately smoldering resentment at the potential disdain of others. I think that’s why your separate final sentence jumps off the page at me: in a flash, you move the Mother from maternal intimacy to maternal protectiveness, from vulnerability to ferocity, Madonna to Mother Bear. I have not quite knelt at this manger before.

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