Ann Kjellberg, founding editor of Little Star, an annual journal of poetry and prose, and Little Star Weekly, its mobile app version, will be offering a poem every Sunday this spring. This is her fourth post.
A batch of poems by a young poet named Abby Rosebrock was sent to me by a scholar-friend in 2011. I was astounded by them. Each one was as bold and confident as a banner, and said something I have never read in a poem before. It should perhaps not surprise that Rosebrock is an actor and a playwright (her web page is a welter of performances, under klieg lights and in cellars, as it is this weekend, with new work at The Rule of 7X7 at The Tank and New York Madness at Playwrights Horizons). Her poems are monologues and in them an utterly singular being comes fully to life and vanishes within the poem’s single act. The speaker is both nakedly there and ingeniously crafted.
“Future Baby,” in its courageous bid for absolute tenderness, was the triumph of the bunch. The boggling truth that a baby in its final vulnerability becomes a locus of total love, an expression of even the possibility of total love, and that this consuming totality comes to rest in a being so tenderly specific, is at once intimate to the experience of being a mother and capacious in its scale. The reciprocity with which love reaches through the generations in the poem becomes an affirmation of the unity of experience and the illusoriness of time. Love clings to us as we crawl away from the disaster of death. Love makes a future baby as real as a living one. The baby is “the whole point,” a vanishing point, that organizes everything and gives it value in the infinite distance; and then, in the poem’s closing lines, as the baby opens its mouth, as babies do, its “glass-clear spittle” becomes lens or a crystal ball, both revealing truth and magnifying love. Where the dragon’s teeth sowed warriors, the spaces where a baby’s teeth will be within baby who does not (yet) exist, beatitude. Within the homeliness of the poem’s dirty snow, its elbow, its bottle cap, its spittle—like an image in a glass bead in a baroque painting—resides the image of mother and child that haunts our art and poetry, a nesting place for eternity. The poem’s long lines yearn toward its absent object; its alternating couplets and single lines express the poem’s paradox: in love, we are two in one, one in two.
Read more of Abby Rosebrock’s poems in Little Star #3. Her monologue in the voice of spring (“What does your heart encompass, how do its contents compare / to my foliage, my Hellenic arsenal of metaphor?”) is in our mobile app Little Star Weekly this week.
The way you will reach for me. The supernatural luckiness of being reached for
by the one I reach for. That you should cry for me—when I wore size-two shoes I cried
for you. At nine I broke my ankle on a trampoline and wept for you. At thirteen
when I cried for my dead mother how I cried for you. I knew then I would love
you as she loved me. At her bedside I felt you clinging to my chest in your white cotton.
The secret is for most of us you are the whole point. Look around here
with your small weak gentle eyes. See that corner and that. The doorway
and the snowy muck. The woman tripping. Outer space, illuminated manuscripts,
fried butternut squash. Raw yellow squash, the sport of squash, the verb to squash:
you are the whole point. The other things are waiting room. Ephemera. They need
batteries. Now I am twenty-one and poor and lonely and there is no other joy than pillowing
your tender imaginary head on my elbow. You. You make an elbow a sweet thing.
You sweeten the weight of each word here. You open your pink mouth into the shape
of a bottle cap. And that’s where my epiphanies will be. In the glass-clear spittle,
a true love for my enemies. In the spaces where your teeth will grow, beatitude.