Jeneva Stone’s poems are domestic, political, colloquial and literary; I admire their range and intensity, their intelligence and lyricism, their alertness and rich uncertainty. Stone describes herself as “a poet, blogger, mother, editor, practical g/i nurse, interpreter of EOBs, queen of medical necessity letters, keeper of the family exchequer, unlicensed physical therapist, knowledgeable wheelchair mechanic.” She also writes gorgeous essays on writing, literature, and parenting two children, one of whom was severely disabled. Her poems and reviews have been published/are forthcoming in Pleiades, Literary Mama, The New Hampshire Review, Colorado Review, Tigertail, Beltway, Beloit Poetry Journal, Poet Lore, and Cimarron Review. She lives in Bethesda and blogs at jgirl3.blogspot.com. Her poem “Female Parent” first appeared in qarrtsiluni.


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Female Parent

for Mary Shelley

1997 : I bid my hideous progeny go forth

and prosper. I have an affection for it,

for it was the offspring of happy days

when death and grief were but words

which found no true echo in my heart : M.S., 1831

The anxiety cupboard of suburbia : houses gestational pods

daddies scatter for work in their suits and ties

mommies finish breakfast dishes wipe faces push strollers to the park

the daddies return : sometimes : it is dark : sometimes

light : it depends on the season : close the door on your unnecessary fears

Natura nihil frustra, is the onely indisputable axiome in Philosophy (T. Browne, 1643) . . .

The delivery room is like this : light & dark : dark & shadows

tightening & relaxing pain crenellating then : easing

sometimes the room goes : white brilliants dancing around

loved face in the center : dark : a spotlight masked faces

all around the margins then you are : stitched

. . . there are no Grotesques in nature nor anything framed to fill up empty cantons, and

unnecessary spaces . . .

Forced through barriers love comes : eerily beautiful like God’s breath

beauty a sort of barricade : behind it crouches something unaware

1816 : Invention does not consist in creating out of

a void, but out of chaos—it can give form to dark,

shapeless substances, but cannot bring into being

the substance itself : M.S.

Mary nurses William on the summer shores of Lake Geneva,

Percy and Byron’s laughter bouncing back to shore in bursts as

the sail inflates, deflates, inflates, a human heart tacking—

The rain drags with it evening sheeting toward the manse,

at the hearth flames grope like hands, clasp and unclasp,

Mary’s imagination birthing, dilating upon so very hideous an idea.

Harriet will drown herself in amniotic waters of dark November,

will force her lungs full with fluid, percolate it through

cell spaces of her brain, her heart, breath after blue breath.

December’s end, cusp of the year, Mary and Percy wed—

vows constellated like a barricade, behind which

Clara forms, cellular spark tindered with a dark breath.

1998 : Dream that my little baby came

to life again—that it had only been cold & that

we rubbed it before the fire & it lived : M.S., 1815

The Pacific is cold in June—his feet balance on packed sand,

the tide undermines them, a thrill of fear as water surges—

our last snapshot from a great distance, framed icon of normal.

A day in July and he cannot crawl—body now a hospital puppet,

we prop it up, curl around it at night: by day, punctured, digitized

and monitored, tapped for secrets. We ask the wisp inside to stay.

August and still we hold arms down on a white table

too long for him, while the PICU nurse looks for a vein—

his cry is measured, repetitive—resignation, defeat.

September, an end to imagination: reality is nimbler,

quick past this stunned body, disassembled brain—

not what we made, but what love in making requires.

. . . There is therefore no deformity but in monstrosity, wherein notwithstanding there is a kind of beauty, Nature so ingeniously contriving those irregular parts, as they become sometimes more remarkable than the principal Fabrick . . .

My heart is a cupboard filled with love and fear : doors snap

open and birds flock out : black pressure rising throngs

a thousand childish vees : half-hearts bursting

as around us small perfect bodies skip a beat while

Victor has pushed and pushed his dogs : sled’s runners slicing

rust slough behind them gasping : cold

air burning down : acid air wrenching up blood

exertion : brains flame against the polar ice while

Clara : William : Percy—dead—1818 : 1819 : 1822

blue tongues : fevered pores : the brain shuts down

on the sight of blinking lights on shore : or

a face framed with damp black hair while

. . . to speake yet more narrowly, there was never anything ugly, or mis-shapen, but the Chaos

ahead of all, the monster leaps nimbly

from floe to floe shrieking

a falsetto promise

to burn himself

alive


- Jeneva Stone

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Daisy Fried is the author of two books of poems, My Brother is Getting Arrested Again (2006) and She Didn’t Mean to Do It(2000), both from University of Pittsburgh Press. She was awarded Poetry’s Editors Prize for Feature Article in 2009.