Kneeling in Water Drops
at the bath’s edge,
a need for sleep slurring in me.
My son maneuvers my old mermaids,
decides their plastic fates—the sea or death.
With his plump hands he submerges them,
waves their green and blue hair.
Their wide turquoise eyes never
shut out our small, frothy ocean.
My eyelids thud, thud,
then shut, satisfying my want.
For a few full seconds,
I enter the forest of sleep.
It’s all fog, buttery light
and the alligator
who has chased me for years.
I wake to a splash, my son’s shout.
I rejoin time, what’s tied to earth—
seconds and souls.
I lift my face, I must
perform the last rituals of night,
be priestess of milk and story,
refuge in the dark.
Natalie Solmer is a recent graduate of Butler’s poetry MFA program. She has a BS in horticulture from Clemson University (with a minor in poetry!) and has worked as a florist for 11 years. She also adjunct teaches English classes. Natalie is the mother of two boys: Kymani, 5 and Alleon, 3. They live about a mile from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. She has been published in Dunes Review, Chicago Quarterly Review, Punchnel’s, The Louisville Review and has a poem forthcoming from Willow Springs. She also has a book-length manuscript, Floral Department, which she is sending out for publication.
“I began writing this poem almost 3 years ago, when my oldest son was 3 and my youngest son was only 6 months. Neither one of them slept much, and needless to say I was exhausted constantly and prone to fall into miniature naps at odd times. One time in particular, I started to doze off while I was giving them a bath (and while actually kneeling down and sort of holding the six month old). This is not a proud mother moment. . . as it is probably super dangerous to fall asleep while a six month old is in water, but as I said, I was holding onto him, and I think I probably dozed for a total of 10 seconds or something (before my oldest yelled loudly, in his play with the mermaids of my childhood!) Yet it was enough time on the other side of consciousness for me to enter into the beginnings of a dream and for me to see my life in more sharp-focus when I came out of it. When we are so exhausted during our children’s babyhood and toddler years, it often flies by without us being fully present. This little moment gave me a feeling of being spiritually present in a heightened way for a moment (when I woke up!) and I also saw myself/my role as mother in a clearer, more significant way.
This poem was one of the lucky ones that came to me mostly close to its current form. I wrote several drafts in my notebook, then I printed out a draft. I workshopped the poem with some trusted friends and made several more revisions over the last few years. However, the poem’s basic form and content has mostly stayed the same. My most important task is always in finding the parts of the poem which need to remain, the parts that are absolutely essential and working for the poem, and cutting out the excess.”