Guest poem sent in by David Morgan-Mar
(Poem #1221) Woman to Man
The eyeless labourer in the night, the selfless, shapeless seed I hold, builds for its resurrection day - silent and swift and deep from sight forsees the unimagined light. This is no child with a child's face; this has no name to name it by; yet you and I have known it well. This is our hunter and our chase, the third who lay in our embrace. This is the strength that your arm knows, the arc of flesh that is my breast, the precise crystals of our eyes. This is the blood's wild tree that grows the intricate and folded rose. This is the maker and the made; this is the question and reply; the blind head butting at the dark, the blaze of light along the blade. Oh hold me, for I am afraid.
This poem builds one extended image of a developing embryo within the author's womb. The first three stanzas are full of the wonder of creating this new life. The eyeless labourer of the fertilised egg cell silently and swiftly builds the body of what will be a new person, building for its resurrection, or birth. The use of the word "resurrection" is interesting, implying a death first, but at this point we can overlook that symbolism. Stanza two extends the image. The embryo is not yet a child, has not yet a name, and yet the author and the nameless man to whom she is speaking already know it intimately. They share the joy and the love and the wonder of creation. The child is their hunter and their chase - the urge to reproduce drives them and provides them with a goal. Although not yet present, the future existence of the embryo and what will be a baby is tangible in their lovemaking. The development into a child is echoed in stanza three. The man's arm provides the strength, the women's breast the shape of the flesh, the eyes will be a mixture of theirs. There is cooperation in this endeavour, and the result will belong to both of them - be a part of both of them. The blood's wild tree reflects the growing network of arteries and veins in the embryo. The intricate, folded rose is in the miracle of unfolding from an undifferentiated mass of cells into a human being. So far we have love, and wonder. These emotions occupy the minds of new parents-to-be. Stanza four brings a dramatic and mind-rocking change of mood. Two lines of paradoxical duality make us question what is really happening here. Then we have a blind head butting at the dark. Blindness and darkness cloud our vision and we have the image of violence, enclosure, constriction. This baby needs to emerge into the world, and the passage will be a difficult one. The first thing it sees is the blaze of light along the blade. Pain and shock await, in birth, and in life. The blade severs ties to the mother as the umbilical cord is cut, and also represents the fears of the author about the birth. Childbirth can be dangerous - can be deadly. And thus the significance of the resurrection in the first stanza hits home. The only way to create new life is to risk death. So hold me, for I am afraid. This is a profoundly moving and deeply affecting poem. I can never know what it feels like to carry a child, but this poem - Woman to Man - gives me some idea of the conflicting emotions that must go through an expectant mother's mind. When published in 1946, it caused a sensation and uproar. Even now, it is powerful and, well, educational. New fathers-to-be could do worse than read this poem. But lest this become clinical and detached, the effect of these words lingers, and reminds us that poetry speaks to something within us all. And that is something that this work definitely achieves. David. Some biographical links: http://www.kirjasto.sci.fi/jwright.htm http://www.nla.gov.au/events/doclife/brady.html