This Choice Xtra: Jerrod Schwarz
by Jerrod Schwarz
I’m standing over the changing table at three in the morning. As of now, the nursery is still in pristine shape; the walls have a fresh coat of blue paint. The crib sheets are ironed, and the new Ikea couch still has that new Ikea couch smell. One of my twin girls, Briar Dillon, is looking up at me, smiling. From what most people have told me, a newborn’s smile means one of three things: gas, poop, or pee, which is to say people don’t think newborns are actually smiling. I disagree. I think my daughter’s smile says “I could projectile onto the walls if I wanted to, Dad. If it pleased me, I could shoot a stream and ruin the couch’s upholstery forever.”
But at three AM, it’s hard to tell if something is a thematic connection or just your brain trying its best to stay awake. So when I open the diaper and Adrienne Rich’s “Diving into the Wreck” enters my mind, I have to question that association. Rich wrote, “I came to explore the wreck. / The words are purposes. / The words are maps. / I came to see the damage that was done / and the treasures that prevail.” Now that feels right. Considering the number of baby wipes I’ve already used, that feels really right.
She goes on to say “This is the place. / And I am here, the mermaid whose dark hair / streams black, the merman in his armored body. / We circle silently about the wreck / we dive into the hold. / I am she: I am he” Now these lines, these are the lines I don’t want to mean anything when I dress my daughter in a fresh onesie and tuck her into the crib, because these lines mean that Rich’s fight is, in some small way, becoming my own, becoming the fight of every daughter’s father. These lines mean that, yes, my twin daughters were born one week before America’s most recent election. These lines mean that I will be writing for them for the rest of my life. These lines mean that my poetry, which usual deals with things like Stockholm syndrome and the misrepresentation of technology, now have a new dimension that I still don’t really understand.
When I put my pinky against her palm, tiny fingers tighten around me. In the last stanza, Rich declares “We are, I am, you are / by cowardice or courage / the one who find our way back to this scene”. It’s three AM, and I’m exhausted, and I want every word I will write in a poem to implicitly mean “You can grow up and be anything.” I want ever line break to say “there’s no such thing as a ceiling, and you don’t need to smile more than you want.” I want to write the poem that says “I was terrified, but I raised you. I was terrified, but look at you now!” I want to write that poem, but it will have to wait, because my daughter’s smiling, and her stomach is gurgling, and I can tell that we are due for a new diaper.
all rights belong to Jerrod Schwarz