Maternal Zoology

This poem is very special to me as it was started in the notes app of my phone a few hours after my son was born. The experience of giving birth during one of the lockdowns in the UK was a very surreal one, and I wanted to keep the slightly subterranean dreamlike feeling of confusion in the finished piece. Lots of the images remain unchanged from that first painful, fearful and love filled late night first draft.

Lights out on the post-labour ward,
hot as the tropics, and sound fills the room.
Each of us sits heavy in our cubicles,
air stagnant with sweat and milk,
blood’s iron tang and a herbaceous bite
of exquisite and terrifying love.

Amid the beeps, the buzzers
and the hum of fluttering midwives,
vines are growing around our curtained walls.

Across from me, there’s a mangrove swamp,
silted and warmly green,
filled with the clicking and squeaking
of bright midnight frogs.
Two cubicles over is lush
with sudden, sodden jungle;
a tenderness of soft primate hoots.

Our own little landscape is a miniature aviary,
your tiny lips curving into twitters
and snatches of pitchy song.
I croon along with you until your breathing
slows into sleep;
stroking your back, imagining
the beginnings of wings.

Next door,
wavelets of quiet sobbing
lap against the edge of the bed.
As the night deepens,
I want to reach into the water –
a glowing, hospital blue –
and help keep her afloat.

Jen Feroze lives by the sea in Essex UK with her husband and two young children. Her work has recently appeared or is forthcoming in Capsule Stories, The Madrigal, The 6ress and Doghouse Press, among others. Her first collection, The Colour of Hope, was published in 2020. Find her on Instagram @the_colourofhope and on Twitter @jenlareine.