692: Other Women's Babies
692: Other Women's Babies
I’m Ada Limón and this is The Slowdown.
As the spring brings more travel for readings at universities, I find myself staring out of plane windows more and more and contemplating the world from 30,000 feet in the sky. I love to look down on the rivers, the rooftops, the squares of houses and pasture, woods, and roads. There’s a strange sense it all makes from above. Because of my love of the view, I didn’t entirely mind flying before the pandemic. I didn’t love it, but I didn’t fear it too much. But now it feels a little harder, something to get through, as opposed to experience.
Luckily, I have one super power: my ability to sleep on a plane. Sometimes I am asleep before we even take off. Sometimes I wake from strange and vibrant dreams that feel as if I’ve entered another world. Once, though I didn’t know who he was at the time, I sat next to the drummer, Parker Kindred, who played in the band called Antony and the Johnsons. I slept soundly from JFK to O’Hare and never stirred. When I woke up as we landed, he laughed about how hard I was sleeping. He said, “I thought to myself, Wow, she must be really tired.”
But I don’t think it’s even that I need the sleep. It's more that I’m transporting myself somewhere else than a plane. I look out the window, I see a few clouds, and then I close my eyes and let my mind take me somewhere else.
Today’s poem is a brilliant example of the way the mind can wander and even conjure when it’s necessary to enter an alternate reality.
Other Women’s Babies
by Rachel Long
Over Canada / or two hours of frozen waves I assume is Canada / I’m surrounded by babies / so many babies / Mum, do you remember X / the one you sometimes ask after / the one who knew to bow for you / call you Ma outside that bookstore / Yes / him / the one with the son / well he came to carry me over them all / they were the eighth sea / they were that song that’s supposed to be reserved for God’s love / you know the one that goes / so high you can’t get over it, so wide / Mum / you can’t even fathom / so many babies / all in a pile / all the babies ever born / or all the ones never born / clamouring / wailing for me to choose / pick one / Now I know why you said not to hold other women’s babies / carrying a child not your own means wahala / X folded me to his chest like / I was the last deckchair of summer / He walked that walk men walk when they’re doing something noble / He set me down in a town square / left me there / I was encircled by three witches / they dripped oil on my forehead / tried to teach me a new and diabolical language / James / our James / walked out of a municipal white building / stood at my side / he’d been sent by you or higher / to escort me out of that square / past the city limits / his spirit was strong / it came in waves / the three witches did not / or could not / stop us / leaving
"Other Women's Babies" by Rachel Long, from MY DARLING FROM THE LIONS copyright © 2021 Rachel Long. Used by permission of Tin House.