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

moth­er

although in my heart

i am both vain

& ugly

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 was born in Har­ris­burg, PA and has a BA in Cre­ative Writ­ing from Susque­han­na Uni­ver­si­ty and an MFA from George Mason Uni­ver­si­ty. She has appeared in The Rum­pus, Car­tridge Lit, Crab Fat Mag­a­zine, Smoke­Long Quar­ter­ly, and cahoodalood­al­ing.

Discussion Questions

Ali­cia Jo Rabins’ Fruit Geode uses exper­i­men­ta­tion and Jew­ish teach­ings to crack open” an account of preg­nan­cy and par­ent­hood. Allud­ing to golems, Tamar and Judah, the alef-bet, Kab­bal­ah, and Lilith, Rabin describes the impact of moth­er­hood on the body and iden­ti­ty. The trans­for­ma­tive poems adapt to the collection’s real­i­ties: the short, repet­i­tive form of Isis Lac­tans” is a mar­riage of exper­i­men­ta­tion and func­tion — the speak­er is typ­ing one handed/​while you/​comfort nurse.” From think­ing about a child as my lit­tle Jon­ah” in a seed-lined ark/​moth­er papaya/​whale bel­ly” to envi­sion­ing the sleep­ing child’s limbs in the shape of the Alef and the shape of the Lamed,” Rabins fear­less­ly con­fronts the come­dies, anx­i­eties, and joys of parenthood.