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Poem of the Week: 'Leavings' by Jacqueline Saphra


The devils and the lunatics are loose;                                      
bear your children, keep them close

for now. Weave a cocoon of hair and skin,
a silver song to grow them in.

Raise them naked as the angles, sweet
and safe; but mix their milk with grit.

Fold them in love and give them ear and tongue
that they might parley with anyone.

Teach them courage, how to rise and focus.
Muscle them like little boxers.

Wait for it: those fists and minds will soon
turn quicker than your own,

will read this world, will try to cuff or kiss it,
will ask you- you- how to fix it.

Shrug; then spin this orb, this creaking prize,
spread out the maps, the changing lines,

throw up your wrinkled hands, unveil the wreck
you’ve left them: the fires, the slow black,

the cleft and spill. Confess: this bruised world, blue
and plundered; now it belongs to you.

I hope you enjoyed this poem as much as I did. The use of rhyming couplets to describe a theme so dark in such a lyrical manner was somehow so endearing to me. Although structured like a nursery rhyme, this poem reads like a recipe. The phrase ‘Fold them in love’ reminded me so much of cake baking instructions. And yet this is an emotionally charged poem, dark and brutally accusatory, pointing a finger at the reader and writer alike for letting the world become such a terrible and dangerous place to raise a child. In a sense, the poem is cyclical, taking the presumed reader from being a young mother of a soft, pure baby, to a trickster old woman with a young adult, angry at the world as young people are in every generation, the first accepting that the world is the way it is and we must compensate by raising our children to be tougher than ourselves, and the second still stubbornly trying to fix the problems left to them by their parents. The poem is almost playful with stock characters, from the angry youth to the conniving old woman, overall dealing with quite an unhappy subject in a thoroughly entertaining way.

This poem comes from Saphra's excellent anthology, All My Mad Mothers is available to purchase from our website here

Blog entry by Clemmie Joly

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