He undresses her jewel-hard mind
every morning with his brain.
She looks for an unmarked room
down a long corridor
and finds him, warm with sleep,
his soft shirt beside the bed.
The female seahorse loves the male
who carries the pearls of her eggs
inside his pouch
where they hatch as miniatures
he fosters and ejects
by doing a forward, a backward bend.
He’s relieved, she stunned.
Soundless, the little fleet sails forth.
Click here to read Jennifer Barber on the origin of the poem.
Who gets to be the writer and who gets to be the muse? In a marriage of two writers, it’s hard to tell. We egg each other on: while I’m working on poems, my husband is writing fiction and translating poetry. Our projects hatch and collide and diverge. There’s some kind gender dance, too, that we have with each other and with our inner selves, some combination of female and male, exposure and secrecy, mind and brain, clarity and dreaminess.
In “Motion Harmony #3”—I borrowed the title from one of my son’s musical compositions—I needed a pair of seahorses in the last part of the poem to further stir the waters and blur the boundaries. Their dance, their intricate entanglement, leads to the gestation phase of a nascent brood. Strangely, the gestation is the male’s responsibility. You could say that with seahorses, the words “male” and “female” come close to losing their meanings. Maybe the same can be said of some marriages, in which it is hard to tell when the two are thinking and acting like themselves and when they are each other.