DINNER FOR THE DYING
By Jen Lambert
When the boy comes inside
with blood on his ripe hands
and a quiver of pointed explanations
on his back, I’m chopping yellow onions.
When he says it’s a doe, that she lies
on the edge of the wood, and that he knows
she was pregnant, my skin tightens.
The scar on my belly, that battered, barbwire grin
that opened like a window for him, twitches
for the dying mother and the calf like a love note in her womb.
When he hangs his knife on his belt
and heads toward the wood, I boil water, crush garlic.
I remember when the doctor pulled him, screaming,
from my belly. I remember the howl in my womb
as he sewed me shut. I remember my first meal
as a mother. Nothing could satisfy.
I salt the vegetables. Crush the mint.
Today’s poem was originally published in Boxcar and appears here today with permission from the poet.
Jen Lambert is a founding editor of Spark Wheel Press and burntdistrict magazine. She received an MFA from the University of Nebraska, and her work has appeared in journals such as Pank, The Los Angeles Review, Sugar House Review, and Redactions, among others.
Editor’s Note: As a new mother, I recently began a search for today’s best poems about motherhood. Jen Lambert’s “Dinner for the Dying” came highly recommended and does not disappoint. And so today we kick off a series of poems within this Saturday Poetry Series that will consider motherhood and hopefully leave their mark upon the reader as today’s poem has left its mark upon me.
There is something of Naomi Shihab Nye in this work. In the salted vegetables and crushed mint. In the intersection of the natural, the familial, and the body. This is a poem of quiet power, wherein tragedy is gently stitched to memory, where life and loss are depicted as two sides of the same coin. Moments of radiant lyric emerge from the subtlety and strength of today’s poem: “a quiver of pointed explanations,” “that battered, barbwire grin / that opened like a window for him, twitches / for the dying mother and the calf like love note in her womb.”