The beginning— no, further back by Jessica Moore

Poem title: The beginning—no, further back Poet name: by Jessica Moore Poem: Go back to the beginning is there a further back than this? that other island, a tent my mother and my father— is there something further? is there a thin skin of water flowing endlessly? Me, a pearl in the inland sea. All was dark and sure. Sometimes night is the surest thing there is. ~ Whose truths are these? Shake yourself out like a shoe. Not all of this belongs to you. ~ Heart beating when the body is the size of a grain of rice. Chambered, already. ~ How do you shield someone who’s inside you from what’s inside you? ~ Despair I don’t know how to shake, tipped over like an old shoe. ~ Elements added, osmosed—outside, the plantain grows day by day, matching the child millimetre for millimetre. The wild rhubarb. Forsythia blooming at her birth. —added, osmosed, the elbows can bend now, and the knees. The name has changed. Embryo to fetus (how do you shield) Write a word on the walls of this room your body is making, first house for the pearl-fetus, choose a good word, a strong word, a word that comes in a good way (how do you shield someone) ~ Loon calls. Stars call. Heed the stars’ call on this island, swim. What you can’t see can hurt you but it won’t, not tonight. No rapture like the rapture of night silk water and your body, suspended between stars. Lakes of deepest black, one far-off wave and all is dark— for that is what the future is, and the best thing it can be— except the wave is light, and inside the wave their leaping dark-finned joy, and just this once, a baby. ~ Inside the wave the heart beats, chambered already. The heart howls, restless as a wolf to escape. Knees and elbows bend, the space between stars stays constant. No it doesn’t. Nothing alive stays constant. End of Poem. Credits: Copyright © Jessica Moore Excerpted from The Whole Singing Ocean, (Nightwood Editions, 2020). Jessica Moore is an author and literary translator. Her first book, Everything, now (Brick Books 2012), is a love letter to the dead and a conversation with her translation of Turkana Boy (Talonbooks 2012) by Jean-François Beauchemin, for which she won a PEN America Translation award. Mend the Living, her translation of the novel by Maylis de Kerangal, was nominated for the 2016 Man Booker International. Jessica’s most recent book—The Whole Singing Ocean (Nightwood 2020)—blends long poem, investigation, sailor slang and ecological grief. She lives in Toronto.