Gregory Luce | Scene4 Magazine

Gregory Luce


gl0421-1PhotoAny parent knows how fraught even the easiest pregnancy and birth are. And for women who actually carry the baby from conception through birth, experience the physical pains of delivery, and the heavier burden of care afterward, the stakes are no doubt even higher.

In her first full-length poetry collection, Viable, Chloe Yelena Miller takes us on this journey from miscarriage, through a difficult second pregnancy, childbirth, and the post-partum depression and slow bonding with the new child in the aftermath.

The book begins with a short prologue of sorts  in which the speaker watches a new mother coax her small daughter to step out from behind her and smile at the stranger. (The poem's title, "Mid-Thirties," implies that the speaker is nearing the end of childbearing years.) The poem's poignant conclusion foreshadows the story to come:

"I, too, know what I would say to a shy child,/given the chance."

The book proper begins with the first of four titled sections, this one called "Carried," in which the poet reflects on different aspects of having miscarried. She tells of the emotions that follow the loss of a much desired baby:

Grief—"Words' rhythm originates in blood flow, the opening and closing/of chambers. Internal iambic pentameter. Here I am, left with one/song. The doctor probes, searches for you where you were.//The noun miscarriage conducts images like electricity. My mother/pushed her baby in a tall, red carriage. Here sunshine, there/a new bonnet.//Shocks seen and unseen beneath the tires." ("Short Duet / Dualities")

Loneliness—"Before anyone else knew/I was pregnant,/I wasn't." ("Wasn't")

Guilt—"Most miscarriages/aren't mamma's fault,/doctors say./No one says much else." ("Carrying")

Alienation—"If this mother knew/my baby/died in my womb/she would not hand me her five-month-old."

"Carrying," the second section, relates the anticipation, both fearful and hopeful, associated with a new pregnancy.

"A young woman, I loved quickly again/after each inevitable end.//You, I must love you later….//I can't admit this love….//Yet." ("Questions of Love – Week 5")

"All while I reach for something,/stretched out on my left side.//The smallest of miracles,/these human, interior pulses." ("English Vocabulary: Quickening")

From anticipation and hope, Miller next takes us to that arrival and its aftermath in the section entitled "Carry."

"My head turns to one side to vomit,/jaw rattled with cold, I gasp./Your father holds my hand, my face….//You hear my cries before I hear yours." ("Three Weeks Early")

"I knew I'd die in childbirth./(I was wrong about that too.)//Once I could walk after the C-section/I pulled my body & IV to the bathroom….//He had been inside. Knew me the way no one else did.//What did her think of me, now?" ("I Knew")

"Such fierce hunger at my breast:/your jaw shakes side to side,/toe-starting shiver to wail.//Finally, you settle/and I understand hunger, the loneliness of it all." ("Fierce Hunger")

"Do you have him? I/don't. I can't find him. Where is/he? Are you sleeping? ("Night Terrors")

"I was pregnant for nine weeks,/and then I wasn't.//I was pregnant for 37 weeks

and here you are.//Will I tell you, you have a sister?...//I won't say,/You are here because/she isn't.//I won't say,/Sometimes I don't/remember her." ("Sibling – eight months old")

The final section, "Apologies," deals with the lingering shame of having miscarried. The poet apologizes for the inability to talk about it, the fact that an anticipated girl baby became a boy instead. The difficulty in explaining her C-section to her son.

"About three and a half, you asked:/Mommy, I was scared in your belly. So the doctor had to cut me out?//Mommy, did I like being in your belly?" ("Physical Apology")

The book closes with an epilogue entitled "Your Creation Story," which addresses the now six-year-old boy.

"It comes to this. Your creation is yours.//I was your home:/now we all nudge you forward,/make room for you to see out.//Balancing between the creek and the trees,/we walk the pipe path.//Sometimes you run ahead, but/we keep you in our sight."

This lovely and hopeful conclusion brings a grace note of happiness and optimism to this fine collection.

For more about Viable and how it came into being, read this interview with the poet: https://bit.ly/38Naayg

To learn more about Chloe Yelena Miller and to order the book:

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Gregory Luce | Scene4 Magazine

Gregory Luce is a Senior Writer and Columnist for Scene4.
He is the author of four books of poetry, has published widely in print and online and is the 2014 Larry Neal Award winner for adult poetry, given by the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities. Retired from National Geographic, he is a volunteer writing tutor/mentor for 826DC, and lives in Arlington, VA. More at: https://dctexpoet.wordpress.com/
For his other columns and articles in Scene4
check the Archives

©2021 Gregory Luce
©2021 Publication Scene4 Magazine




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