Awakening by Joanne Uppendahl

Awakening
Joanne Uppendahl 

 

When
the steamy
openness of me ebbed then,
I could no longer define myself
as breast milk.

I turned
on uncertain feet
when my babies left
for life or its end.

No longer
in the birthing bed, I turned
counter clockwise on brittle grass,
crop-circling,

seeking ball-lightning
of another kind.

 


 

Dragon’s Egg
© Rick Tobin

 


Review by Carol Lynn Stevenson Grellas

When
the steamy
openness of me ebbed then,
I could no longer define myself
as breast milk.

From the opening lines to the final couplet, this is an inspiring and beautiful poem. The language is succinct and well chosen: the reader connects with the narrator in an unusual way as the writing is powered with emotion. This is a poem about motherhood, transformation, acceptance of life, death and all inexplicable possibilities which exist in life. The word ”ebbed” works perfectly in the first stanza; it evokes an image of the moon and the shore, the gravitational attraction which occurs. It’s a stunning word to convey the emptiness a woman may feel when the nurturing phase is complete. With the conclusion of childbearing years- the birthing years over, the speaker no longer sees herself in the same light, no matter how others view her. Her gift for giving life must now evolve into another phase, something the narrator finds challenging. This experience, the birth of her child, was a source of joy she will forever be grateful but as another cycle begins she “turns” as she so eloquently says on “uncertain feet.” It’s as though she must rotate from within, changing position without changing at all.

I turned
on uncertain feet
when my babies left
for life or its end.

This next stanza becomes the most unsettling and haunting stanza of the poem. The simple declaration that her babies left for “life or its end,” an unavoidable truth, yet here so delicate the mentioning of death: the meaning heads into the realm of the unthinkable. With the haunting enjambment of “no longer” and another mention of “a turn”— though this time counter-clockwise— we have a hint that heartbreak may have occurred. For she is turning in an unpredicted, potentially undesired way:  the grass brittle beneath her and the phrase, “crop-circling” indicates perhaps that an outside force or phenomenon has intervened on her life.

No longer
in the birthing bed, I turned
counter clockwise on brittle grass,
crop-circling,

seeking ball-lightning
of another kind.

With the final couplet and the phrase “ball-lightning,” there’s a thought that the speaker may be feeling directionless, searching for some greater purpose to go on, to do more than turn. Perhaps she is in need of a static charge, like a sign from the Heavens that might guide her. I am reminded again of the title. There’s a sense of calmness in the these last two lines that implies a special tolerance or love of life and the cosmos with all of its mysteries. As if she’s aware she’s on the precipice of something mystical or an Awakening, inside her very own universe.

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