Photo Credit: Nikki Mumolo
15 months, 3 weeks, and 2 days: waking
We do side jobs to make daycare & rent like your chicken gig at the island music festival. The upstairs neighbor hooks you up. His wife drives a minivan; the doors slide open without human hands. You’re at the parking spot so early it’s still dark. Beige doors frame them in the predawn. Her body against the wall. Her seven-year-old son in the backseat. At first you thought: an embrace, a portrait, but then a snarl. And what concrete sounds like.
24 months, 3 weeks and 1 day: walking
“The cry involves more than a reflexive response to pain: it is an act of creation, a sign that the world is not equal to itself” (Andrew Joron). You toddle, ask if it’s getting dark—Is it darker now? The moon is rising. You pick a waxy leaf off the sidewalk and hold it high into the atmosphere—A LEAF!—you cry.
22 weeks and 3 days: derealize
Fold the diaper so all the wipes fit inside and place it in the bag. Don’t leave it in the wastebasket. Omission is what is used to strike out pathetic punitive fraud that sweats out this overweight body. How did I appear in this colorless place? The doorman swiped an elevator card and radioed up. Wipe the marble counter. Fold the sticky tab tight. In the middle ages diaper-work emblazoned shields with small repeating shapes like diamonds. I keep the shit with me only and for hours.
5 months, 3 weeks and 4 days: keeping time
The Scandinavian colleague whose name you forget tells you to forget your explanation. I had three years off work. You keep time you can get working at home. Think of her when you need to dispel power upon you, even when it’s someone telling you, you’re so lucky. Even if it’s sudden feminizing flowers, but no raise. Even if you pump in a restroom while people walk past. If you call daycare too often to check-in. If you see your privilege and take it anyway. If you answer a text, an email at 4am, at 6am. You think of her when you need to quit raging. You take empathy pills, sun pills, brain pills, but they’re so moral, hands around your throat.
12 weeks and 1 day: willing
You will not make it up the hill walking at your own pace. You will strap yourself into the Honda Civic and drive through the tunnel. You will forget daycare, double back and drop him off 15 minutes late. You are a stand-in for your own being. You are a material experience at the apex of the hill that you cannot walk-up yet. You type the email. You answer the phone. You unstrap yourself from the Honda Civic and meet the eyes of the domesticated deer poised near the BBQs. This is the dawn of your vulnerable transition. Will yourself. You are the the.
36 months, 3 weeks and 2 days: catering
“The Birth of the Mother” says that ambivalence means two opposing feelings, “space and closeness.” It’s an article slash long form advertisement for a new book. Wear this shame of unattainable partner, mother, employee, colleague, friend, housekeeper, chef, etc: Buy this book. Scroll to the comments: “Yet another book that conflates birth and motherhood;” “Why is it that women and children are always to blame?” The belief that climate change can be solved if women in poorer countries have fewer children, not ExxonMobile. My cousin passes wine over a blue race car and broken firetruck, Exxon already has working AI, he says. The robot armies are coming, Alberto replies. Your cousin works for the devil, says a colleague. My mother sits in her cubicle for 25 years paying companies to watch her babies. She answers tickets for collection accounts at a credit bureau to pay off the taxes from my Dad’s scam and to get a car able to drive in reverse. To be able to park in any available spot. The comment read “Why are the ads for this article all for antidepressants and the book Lean In.” Ads don’t work like that says the marketer, they are catered to the user, not the site. There are 25 words that can be made with the letters L E A N I N. Alien, line and I, for example, and the word inane, which is suddenly a feeling. User sounds like use her. If the article could feel, it might describe its emptiness. This copy on a nursing cover canopy box: “allows the user to breastfeed secretly.” Lean out, motherfucker. No matter how great your partner is, it still feels a little sexist, a writer friend says, forking her salad. He doesn’t know what size clothes she wears, what size socks. Actually, he’s even never bought her socks, she says. Your Dad would never have done half the things he does, my mom whispers, watching Alberto put pajama pants on your head.
Sara Mumolo is the author of Mortar and the Associate Director for the MFA in Creative Writing program at Saint Mary’s College of CA. She created and curated the Studio One Reading Series in Oakland, CA from 07-12. Poems have appeared in 1913: a journal of forms, Lana Turner, PEN Poetry Series, Typo and Volt, among others. She has received residencies to Vermont Studio Center, Caldera, and has served as a curatorial resident at Pro Arts Gallery in Oakland, CA. Her next book Day Counter is forthcoming in 2018 from Omnidawn.