Alicia Jo Rabins’s book of poems, Fruit Geode, is an exploration of the body transformed by motherhood. Rabins, who is also a musician, composer, and Torah scholar, draws on these various forms of expertise to craft poems that hold the body in the air and turn to see its shape in different lights.
In “Geode,” Rabins sets forth one of the main questions of the book when she writes, “Each of us a geode looking to be cracked open / And to crack each other open / Over and over.” How can we find our most beautiful parts without breaking apart? How can we love the other people around us without breaking them, too? Rabins often sets up the questions of before and after in her poems with pregnancy as the hinge between the two. Here, the speaker of before is eager, straining to reach planets. But by the end of the poem, the speaker comes to the after when she says, “I try to be gentle / The years crack you open enough.”
Most of the poems in the book are single-line stanzas. With each line standing on its own — instead of the poems collapsed into single, small stanzas — Rabins gives the poems the space to accordion open, to give each line the space to feel like it’s cracked open from the one before and after it.
Rabins’s poems also speak about the postpartum months as filled with a desire to delve irrationally into motherhood. In “I Suck Your Fever Out,” her one-line stanzas work to vacillate between the insanity of exhaustion that comes with a sick baby, and the desire for the insanity of exhaustion to never end. In a later poem, “Cathedral,” she mourns that she will have no more children when she writes, “I cry for the third child that I don’t want / And won’t have.” This contradiction is at the core of many of Rabins’s poems: things are somehow one way, the other, and both.
The speaker’s exhaustion also manifests as she examines her own postpartum body. “Pig in a Blanket” feels particularly damning, as the speaker describes the ways her body has changed for her baby: “for you I’ve become / dangling grapes / for you I put on this / fat suit.” The body here feels transformed into food, and a shape more akin to a costume. But by the end of the poem, the speaker still doesn’t seem able to reach kindness when she says:
you honor me
with the name
although in my heart
i am both vain
Rabins’s poems in Fruit Geode grapple unflinchingly with the difficulties of motherhood, and the ways in which this experience transforms a mother and her body.
Elizabeth Deanna Morris Lakes is a writer and editor. Her book, Ashley Sugarnotch & the Wolf, is forthcoming from Mason Jar Press.