Madre Paradójica

Orphan: from Late Latin orphanus, from Ancient Greek ὀρφανός (orphanós, “without parents, fatherless”), from Proto-Indo-European*h₃órbʰos. Cognate with Sanskrit अर्भ (árbha), Latin orbus (“orphaned”), Old High German erbi, arbi (German Erbe (“heir”), Old English ierfa (“heir”)

Is there a name for the condition of having
always known you don’t own the body you come into,

from the moment you’re lifted out of the tunnel
and held up by the ankles to make that first,

long-drawn-out wail? The hands of the midwife,
the hands of the nurse taking the body’s measure,

counting the number of fingers and toes, testing
the apparatus of the ears— It doesn’t seem

important whose names are typed into the form
if one can substitute for another, if the body

from which you’ve recently been cleaved was,
after all, surrogate for another. What name,

if any, will you be able to call her? And,
as you grow, how will she be able to staunch

the heavy pull and pain as the body stops
producing the milk, as the walls of the womb

shrink back into themselves and everyone
carries on as if nothing happened? And the new

body to which you are assigned, the one
you are instructed to give the name “mother:”

how does it manage the work of rearing and housing
what is and isn’t part of her? In sleep, in dreams,

all of us reach for the other. Awake, all of us
stand in the circle of our perfect solitude.

Poet Luisa A. Igloria (Poetry Foundation web page, author webpage ) is the winner of the 2015 Resurgence Prize (UK), the world’s first major award for ecopoetry, selected by former UK poet laureate Sir Andrew Motion, Alice Oswald, and Jo Shapcott. She is the author of What is Left of Wings, I Ask (2018 Center for the Book Arts Letterpress Chapbook Prize, selected by Natasha Trethewey); Bright as Mirrors Left in the Grass (Kudzu House Press eChapbook selection for Spring 2015), Ode to the Heart Smaller than a Pencil Eraser (Utah State University Press, 2014 May Swenson Prize), Night Willow (Phoenicia Publishing, 2014), The Saints of Streets (University of Santo Tomas Publishing House, 2013), Juan Luna’s Revolver (2009 Ernest Sandeen Prize, University of Notre Dame Press), and nine other books. She is a member of the core faculty of the MFA Creative Writing Program at Old Dominion University which she directed from 2009-2015. In 2018, she was the inaugural Glasgow Distinguished Writer in Residence at Washington and Lee University. When she isn’t writing, reading, or teaching, she cooks with her family, knits, hand-binds books, and listens to tango music.

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