By Linda Weissinger Lupowitz
For Noah, breech at 37 weeks
Lifted Up, photo © 2002-2008 by Kim Donald.
All rights reserved.
“This could feel a little cold,”
the ultrasound technician warns,
warming the electrodes—or something
more benign—to place upon my daughter’s
swelling belly, bringing life to the idea
of her yet unborn child, at twelve weeks
A nimble gymnast, flexing, leaping, kicking
in a dark internal sea…sound waves coursing
tides within the muscular gymnasium,
Upon the screen, a face appears—
the Face You Wore Before You Were Born.
Cold waves, heavier than light, unveil
the secret sac in which you float and dance:
a private glimpse through some impossible
Your face swims into view—an upturned nose
and certain gaze, before your Soul has met
its match in union with such princely flesh;
a clay-vessel bobbing briefly in a red river,
soon to be caught in the rushes and rescued
to our world, this side of deliverance.
“…I’m not saying what you see,” she says,
“but if it looks like a turtle, it’s a boy;
a girl looks like a hamburger…”
Tiny turtle, cozy in the confines of your high-
flying mama, here you find a steady balance
in the sky, pushing with your heels toward earth,
gripping toes and sturdy soles, locked knees and elbows,
navel-numbing with your bony head, competing for her
breath—riding the ups and downs face forward
with the gravity of your purpose.
At thirty-seven weeks, frankly Noah,
you are breech, stubbornly maintaining
your position, firmly planted in the face
of sheer adversity, despite threat of a cesarean
—scheduled now for Tuesday. Doctors
with their knives are sharpening
their plans to take you out.
Ana tells me of a birth-emergency, wherein
a paramedic reached within to check the cervix
of a laboring mother, when a tiny hand
reached down to grip his finger….
Turn, turn, little turtle, nudges your father,
his strong hands circling your home;
airplanes crash into buildings, cities fall,
people leap and bombs are dropping, dropping.
Leaves flee the trees in a Mississippi breeze,
you’ve borne tornado warnings, still you
hold this space.
Your distant grandfather penetrates his healing
message through the ethers, through the density
of matter, to meet you in that space we share,
born and unborn, on higher ground.
“He’ll turn,” he says with certainty.
Ana anticipates a simpler birth, more antiseptic,
less messy than this rush of unpredicted fury…
as suddenly, surprising her, on Saturday
You flip, breaking the womb-waters,
wedging head and shoulders in the pink canal,
diving your unheralded descent towards light,
or from it.
Mamababe, photo © 2002-2008 by Kim Donald.
All rights reserved.
Birthing the Poem
Poetry is a birth process, conceived in love – a glimmer in the eye, a spark, a word that won’t let go lodges deep inside the mind, takes form, gathers strength.
The geometric nucleus, nurtured in silence, swells until it shows, until it is a little embarrassing. It can get out of control, morph into something you might be ashamed of.
Then you must labor to deliver pen to paper, and push the poem out. This transition is exquisite, private, no epidural needed. There may be tears. Waters have broken.
Look at it now, wrinkly and raw. Count the words and listen, arrange and rearrange. Deep breath, let it down, now swaddle and share a newborn with the world, perfect or not.
Like human progeny, rarely do live poems manifest intact from the Source. As I age, few will endure. I don’t know how many might still be left in me, from seeds long dormant.
Mom Asleep, photo © 2002-2008 by Linda
Weissinger Lupowitz. All rights reserved.
Noah Charles Strong was born soon after 9/11 – and he made us grandparents, a great blessing. Twenty-three years before, Ariana Faith made me a mother, and we had become a family.
Born in a tumble-down farmhouse on a back road in South Carolina, she emerged in full voice and power three days after Christmas 1977, caught by her father. We were caught by surprise at the impact such a small being had upon our world. The birthing kit was fifteen dollars, for two midwives attending a then-illegal home birth.
It cost many thousands of dollars for Noah’s arrival in Mississippi, and he pulled off a surprise as well. He was breech and supposed to be c-section, but changed his mind.
My view of technological intervention in birthing is dim, so I was relieved by the choice he made. Robert does distant healing work, and he was confident that Noah would turn, as he turned him across time and space.
The conceptual spark that started a fire in my soul was an ultrasound image, a little black- and-white glossy print of what was inside my pregnant daughter. I was privileged to see within the mystery, to witness the secret face of my unborn grandson.
This stunning vision persisted through post-partum gestation, until one day I sat on the pebbly beach of the Rio Grande, and wrote this poem on the back of a folded shopping list.
Like Noah, it came to light in one sudden rush. Then, as we got to know each other, the features became as familiar as the face of one you have known since before you were born.
The Zen Koan
The Monk Mayo asked this question of the Sixth Patriarch: “What is Zen?”
The Patriarch replied that, “when your mind is not dwelling on the dualism of good and evil, what is your original face before you were born?”
This question seems nonsensical, but this is only so when measured against the linear logical requirements of society. The question is intended to open the initiated mind to possibilities beyond the rational. It is also designed so as to waken the student to the possibility that spiritual answers require a different mode of thought.
Zen master Dogen had a saying that is appropriate in the present context. He said that in order to perceive reality we must “drop mind and body.” In other words, it is essential to drop all habits of thought and preconceptions in order to understand the truth.
The Koan forces the student to face this type of thinking. The answer to the question What is your original face before you were born? cannot be answered on the level of rational logic. It points towards the possibility of knowing or understanding without the constructs of reason and habitual response.
The question suggests we have to approach spiritual reality as if we had knowledge of things before we were taught the ways of thinking of this world; in other words, ” before we were born.”
In trying to answer the Koan, the student will come to a mental “precipice,” as it were, where all the methods and procedures of accepted thinking no longer function. The purpose of the Koan is to shove the student over this precipice into an area of experience that is completely new. This is the spiritual reality that the Zen master is attempting to guide the student towards.
Linda Weissinger Lupowitz was born in Philadelphia, moved way out west with Robert to New Mexico, home-birthed and homeschooled three children. She runs a chiropractic practice and a virtual staffing agency, Connect2Pro. A graduate of Smith College, she has been Associate Editor of Taos Magazine, Rio Grande, and Mothering Magazine. The online journal of poetry and photography, C. Little, No Less, was started in March 2003, as a plea for peace.