“Daughter Inside” and “Ekphrasis of My Daughter After a poem by Audre Lorde” by Erica Manto-Paulson

         "Daughter Inside"

All the eggs a woman will ever carry form in her ovaries when she is a four month old fetus in the womb of her mother.  We vibrate to the rhythms of our mother’s blood before she herself is born. 
- Layne Redmon
Little pullet, hidden in grassy cluster code of DNA— my daughter, 
half the girl she would become, quivering inside my ovaries inside 
my body, inside the body of my mother.  She carried us the way 
any mother carries her daughters, the way her mother 
at 42 weeks pregnant, bent over a steaming chorus of enameled 
cast iron pots, toddler on her hip, varicose veins bulging what she knew 
in her blood.  That we were born of the bastard child 
her mother was, that hungry little girl in the orphanage, hands folded 
the way the nuns taught her to behave so that someone would take her 
home. And she took all of us home— home into her body, home into 
women upon women duplicating themselves into warm bundles 
of sleeping infants, like the one in my arms— her fontanelle 
pulsating heartbeats that channel veins of time, her own pre-daughter 
nestled inside the ovaries I made for her, silently waiting inside their shells.

         "Ekphrasis of My Daughter After a poem by Audre Lorde"

How the days went while you were blooming inside me.  I remember each up each.  How your first fluttered then jumped and I thought it was my heart. – Audre Lorde

It was a painting by Gustav Klimt, 
	The Music I, 1895 
and I was twenty-six and pregnant, standing in line 
		at the post office when my daughter 
			inside me 
grew electric.  
		I felt her quiver— blind 
	like a cave fish, 	her gills pulsing, sucking the image 
in the painting from the sea of my brain 
		where it traveled inside 
			my bloodstream and 
				across the placental wall, 	
	through the umbilicus when
			it entered her and 
we held our astonishment, together.

The doctors told me to call to her at birth		
when she didn’t breathe.
They say
	a baby recognizes her mother’s voice 
while they hover, 
			choosing between worlds,  
so I screamed her name 		
	the sound of it piercing	room air,
it was the first time I had ever said it out loud
and she mewed
like a half-drowned kitten, 
her naming 
breaking free 
		from my throat, 
	fluttering through the room as she opened 
her eyes into the blur.  

Once we are here, we continue
		without trying	
		without a choice.	
whether the metronome
		of the heart
		below the catacombs of bone 
I tell my daughter I know little 
		of the mystery, 
I can claim nothing 
of the why 
we have survived.  

My daughter says
she was an egg in heaven and G-d 		
	dropped her into my belly.  

On days when I can hear no one, when not a word
	gets through, 	
			her voice
becomes the stillness.

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