Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Julia Kolchinsky Dasbach, 40 Weeks


Nature must be a mother

to pour : thunder : punch

through potholes : hoping this

will make something : anything

: grow : she must be moths : mouth

wide : wings panting for lightning :

who else would strike herself : flame

veining the air? who else would bear

children to rise in spring : only to feel them

cut months later? the moth’s

charred outline on a log : the double

wound : her children’s head sinking

: left to dry on another mother’s

windowsill : who else would ask

for such a violence?

Granville, Ohio-based poet Julia Kolchinsky Dasbach’s third full-length poetry title, following The Many Names for Mother (Kent State University Press, 2019) and Don’t Touch the Bones (Lost Horse Press, 2020), is 40 Weeks (Portland OR: YesYes Books, 2023), a book-length poem on pregnancy and the difficulties of waiting, wanting, catching and becoming. 40 Weeks follows pregnancy, a loss, and a further pregnancy, offering her poem-titles as individual and consecutive weeks, each named and sized after a corresponding vegetable-to-fetus size, from “Week 4: Poppy Seed” and “Week 9: Grape” to “Week 14: Lemon” and “Week 28: Eggplant.” Across this book-length suite, Dasbach composes a mapping of an intimate space, and the emotional and physical complexities and interruptions of everything that pregnancy, mothering and motherhood involves and surrounds. She writes violence and loss, swirls of surrender and survival. As the short single-sentence of the poem “Week 21: Carrot” ends: “into the street with your sun / still inside his laughter / brought icicles down / from a neighbor’s gutter / they shattered / irreparable / far from his body / unprotected and wholly / outside of you / inside / her fingerprints / became / permanent [.]”

Set in a sequence of weeks, Dasbach articulates poems about and around pregnancy and motherhood that ripple out into poems about how precarious and wonderful it is to live, and live deeply, allowing every part of her to surrender to an experience that overtakes every cell. “Four times they drew,” she offers, to open “Week 31: Coconut,” “checking blood / for sweetness—how quickly / the body can dissolve / what feeds it.” There is such a delicate precision to these poems, simultaneously hard-set and tender, as Dasbach composes poems of becoming and becoming more; of being and the slow difficulty and clear beauty of pregnancy and motherhood, along with all the confusion, insecurity, heartbreak and all else that can’t help but come. “You’ve been leaking / for weeks now,” the poem “Week 38: Leek” begins, “secreting, sieving, / seeping, sweating even / in the absence / of heat. You’ve been / leaving yourself / on every fabric, / spending more time / surrounded / by water / so what escapes / comes home.” Dasbach’s 40 Weeks really is a breathtaking collection of documented moments in set lyric, even through the rush of attempting to document each moment as it occurs, before it moves on to the next, and remains in no other form but through memory, or here.

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