Six Children

‘Though unmarried I have had six children’

                                                                                    Walt Whitman

 

                        The first woman I ever got with child wore calico

                        In Carolina. She was hoeing beans; as a languorous breeze

                        I caressed her loins, until her hoe lay abandoned in the furrow.

 

                        The second was braving the tumultuous seas that encircle

                        This fish-shaped isle; by the time a sudden riptide tore

                        Her from my grasp, she had known the full power of Paumanok.

 

                        One matron I waylaid – or was it she who waylaid

                        Me? – on a tram that shook and rattled and

                        Rang from Battery Park to Washington Heights and back.

 

                        O Pocahontas! You died as Rebecca Rolfe, and are buried

                        In Gravesend. Your distant descendant, her swollen belly

                        Taut as a drum, avoids my eye, and that of other menfolk.

 

                        While my glorious diva hurls her enraptured soul to the gods,

                        I sit, dove-like, brooding in the stalls; what in me is vast,

                        Dark and abysmal, her voice illumines and makes pregnant.

 

                        Some day, all together, we will stride the open road, wheeling

                        In an outsized pram my sixth, this broken, mustachioed

                        Soldier whose wounds I bind up nightly. His mother I forget.

from Six Children (Faber, 2011), ? Mark Ford 2011, used by permission of the author and the publisher.

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