Two poems by Dorothy appear in the (M)othering Anthology, published by Inanna Publications & Education Inc., Toronto, Ontario, 2022. They are “Naissance,” and “Full-Body Tattoo.”
Naissance is French for “birth.”
The translation to English is not only meant literally, but also in a maturation sense, as the girl in the poem transcends through a painful journey from naïvety to wisened, from one used and deceived by “Love’s fool’s gold” to one who is awake and aware of nuanced ideas about mothers and mothering as an “other.”
The use of French in the poem offers a cloak of dignity to an otherwise scorned and judged state a young woman may find herself in if she steps outside society’s accepted ideals of motherhood. The poem’s easy back and forth use of English and French speaks of the duality of femininity–the desire to be pure like the eternal Virgin, and also like a woman with her own desires. There is no amalgamation of the two halves– they are always at odds and so the poem appears somewhat choppy and misconstrued, like the girl/woman, naïve/wise woman binary which disallows female complexity of character in life and literature.
This poem is a metaphor for the pain a mother feels. Dorothy writes of pains which are many and diverse. It is dedicated to a young mother who lost a baby not yet one year old, this side of the womb, from a flu. On the way to the hospital, the baby stopped breathing. He couldn’t be revived.
The poem also speaks to the many pains felt by mothers in the course of life. Often, babies are viewed as innocents, and once a child transgresses, the mother must give up her notion that her child is perfect. As the child grows older, transgressions can take on many forms, and therefore the pains of the mother are many and multifaceted, just like a vivid body tattoo from limb to limb, as imagined by the author. (As she has no tattoos herself.)
The original poem was much longer than the edited version. it travels around through pin-prick smear words around the body, using synonyms for pain as well as body parts. No part of the mother’s body is covered and sacred in childbirth, or when with tiny children. Often, a mother bathes with her baby or small children. Children often trail her to the bathroom and see her often in the nude. This poem unclothes the relationship of mothers and their children to expose the sensations of shared experience. It subverts the idea and ideal that motherhood is always joy-filled. But like a beautiful work of art–in this case a colourful tattoo–motherhood is finally rewarded in one or many ways.