I Stop Writing the Poem: Surrendering to Motherhood


I went looking for something today, and I found it, pressed between violet footprints of my firstborn, my college diploma, a piano recital etched in calligraphy, the receipt for retro fabric still awaiting needle and thread, a googly-eyed puppet, a tulip bulb catalog, photos of me at four fishing with my dad, a stack of latin root flashcards, an article on Isaiah, an old gym workout, and a love letter from Hugh scrawled on the back of a piece of toilet paper, I’m not kidding either and please don’t call me messy, I prefer creative-

I found it, all 9 pages of it, the title spare and still intact on the page, still printed on tiniest heart of my matryoshka doll hearts.

Surrendering to Motherhood: My unpublished manuscript, 2001. I know, fanciful thinking, you say, and you’re probably right though I still held these old papers like childhood friends and opened to the first page on which there is a single poem, the same poem that when first read made the inside of my tiniest tenderest matryoshka heart quiver with rejoicing and resistance.  The same poem I breathe in slowly, then out, then in again, as I answer curious onlookers about my choice to mother my children as I do.  So I share it here with those who love poetry, and if you do not, my sincerest pity.

I Stop Writing the Poem

by Tess Gallagher

to fold the clothes. No matter who lives

or who dies, I’m still a woman.

I’ll always have plenty to do.

I bring the arms of his shirt

together.  Nothing can stop

our tenderness.  I’ll get back

to the poem.  I’ll get back to being

a woman.  But for now

there’s a shirt, a giant shirt

in my hands, and somewhere a small girl

standing next to her mother

watching to see how it’s done.

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