“I have no choice but to give birth
to everything now, every thought
that comes to mind”
The Spirit Papers‘ acclaimed author has added another collection of poems to her credit, Lying In (Milkweed). When taken into consideration, objectively, this body of work is an estimation of the weight of loss, grief, motherhood, et cetera. Told from a standpoint of bed rest, Elizabeth Metzger analyzes how the body pays the price of bearing something as fragile as another self twice as susceptible to vulnerability. This book is profound in the way it portrays love, loss, numbness and longing. With keywords such as; high-risk pregnancy, motherhood, placental abruption, and childbirth, the reader becomes a witness given access into the persona, and the spaces whose “… floor is fluttering with tongues.”
As a customary form of confinement that takes place prior to, during, and following childbirth, the words, “lying-in”, from which this book derives its title, relies on language as sharp as the sterile scalpel that cuts between the two clamps. “Try to gather yourself says the nurse / so I look for my body everywhere” reveals that autobiographical touch in that quest of finding it. This book drips with amniotic fluid, tears and the unspoken as vast as the white spaces resistant to the stain of ink. It is true, the sting of loss does not miss its mark. The poet records the yowl that follows, allowing us to enter the various dimensions of vulnerability— a world where even a blade of grass can become a double-edged saber in the hands of pain.
The beginning of the irresistibility of “Lying In” is in the opening lines of the first poem the title of this collection is adapted from. The poem is phenomenal in the way it is divided into different asterisked parts with a sustained tone that surfs with every line on the waves of emotion. Metzger writes, “On bed rest desire becomes a sheet. / Let it fall over me / without hands. Let it”, in that noiseless submission to the danger that attends it. In this poem, the poet is a “mortal /pregnant with a god”, one who is not spared the appetite of a possible loss in the respective string of words; “if only he can / be born”, plainly, “threatened abortion”. Thoughtfully captured in this poem, is a moment for her where the presence of a loved one is intimately desired as a source of strength. It says, “I will not stand without a husband. / I will not drink water / without his placing the straw / between my lips.” After this, the language exhibits a certain surrender to loss in the words, “The moment I first grab our son / to my chest I say / goodbye?”
Following the introductory poems I found particularly noteworthy, I noticed a careful attention to details armed with a strong sense of purpose, a simplicity that conceals depth, expressions that rubs the fingertips over ache. Whoever is this excellent at telling only has to transcribe the marks of suffering or joy and call it poetry. With this, the reader can easily transition from being an empath to becoming the sufferer.
In “Picture of the floating world”, the poet balances impending loss, or gain, painting the horizon that awaits them, with a subtle submission to probability. I’ve known different types of bravery, but this one. The ease of reading through is the ease at which the words thrusts you through. Trust me, you do not want to be lucky escaping any thing that leaps at you from any angle it wants to have you.
In reflection of the overall arc of this amazing collection, ranging from poignance to the introspective, this body of work is a thoughtful offering that stays with the reader. I celebrate its unique relationship with language, its fine approach to storytelling, its ageless themes, cohesiveness, and how insightfully it delved into complex emotions and ideas, with sensitivity and depth. “Lying In” is one book to return to as often as one permits the longing for words that are devastatingly beautiful in their communication of experiences that leaves behind it, pools of light we never know how thirsty we are for.