by Emily Montgomery


THE FIRST MONTHS OF YOUR LIFE, I was hungover all the time.
Familiar words eluded me: imminent, proclivity, paucity, autocrat.
Like a perpetual drunk, this new self was awkward, clumsy, unpredictable.  
She scattered grains of uncooked rice across the kitchen floor,
then forgot to sweep them up.  She opened cupboard doors
and did not shut them, left keys in the ignition for hours,
began sentences she could not finish.  Intoxicated, perhaps,
by the perfection of your small being, or else by the terrible weight
of so many sleepless nights, the new self, your mother,
stared mindlessly at empty places on the wall,
closed her eyes a little too long each time she blinked,
wept inconsolably without cause or explanation.  
At night she would lie awake, suddenly lucid and sober,
watching emaciated sheep stumble over dilapidated fences,
reciting half-memorized poems, imagining her uncertain
return to an increasingly elusive intellectual life.  
Anticipating the hunger cries to come, she would skirt
the edge of sleep for hours, while words circled above her,
taunting her, as beautiful and intangible as distant stars,
as dark and ominous as vultures, threatening
to devour everything, leaving her with only a helpless
infant, a lactating body and a mind she could not recognize at all.

EMILY MONTGOMERY grew up in the Pacific Northwest writing about the mysteries of nature and human connection. She studied English literature and Latin American history, then traveled the world teaching and advocating fiercely for the disempowered. When she became pregnant with her first child, Miles, she focused her poetic practice on motherhood. She died of cancer at age thirty-four, weeks after her second child, Eloise, was born.

return to Issue Twenty Two