Teen Mother Navigates the Cosmos

I couldn’t love you
to the moon or back,

too busy on the ground
mincing chicken, plugging

power outlets. But sooner or later
perils slip through—

the occasional meteor,
a novel virus,

even the nail clipper
I tried to wield

while you nursed—
its curved metal beak.

Your hand wandered
to my lip. I caught it,

trusted my teeth
to nip one nail,

then another. Cheeks
curved up at the logic,

let the nipple
pop free.

So, I gobbled
your planet-plump fist

into my mouth,
five finger constellation.

Your first laughs erupted in ovals,
crackled all the way down

to the rug, sizzled there
a long time after.

Click here to read Melody Wilson on the origin of the poem.

Image: photo by Zach Lucero on Unsplash, licensed under CC 2.0.

Melody Wilson: Maybe it’s envy, but the phrase “I love you to the moon and back” has always bothered me. I became a mother at sixteen and had to be very practical. So this poem begins with resistance and ends up in wonder.
I didn’t have any trouble listing dangers and loved working through the nail clippers once they occurred to me. I remember the appearance of “curved beak” with delight. However, describing the baby’s smile was a little tricky. I remember my daughter got a huge kick out of me biting her nails, but I struggled to describe it. I liked the word “logic” immediately, but because she’s an infant, I worried about it. Once I came upon the “gobbling” passage, the rest of the transition fell right into place.
The poem probably existed within just a couple of drafts except getting those first laughs down to the ground. Of all my poems, this might have been the most challenging to close, and I’m still not sure I have it right. It’s possible I should have abandoned the falling laughs and gone another direction, but I just couldn’t let go of the image.

Melody Wilson
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