Day of the Child
From Arra Lynn Ross, a tender, generous, and generative extended poem centered on the experience of parenthood.
“What is learned? I’ll return for my son; / at school, at three thirty-eight, bells will ring & run / days over years.” Using unpredictable syllabics, rhyme, and syntax, Day of the Child captures the sensation of altered time that accompanies a child’s growth. Seasons come and go. A schoolboy becomes a dreaming infant becomes a five-year-old exploring metaphor for the first time becomes an ultrasound image, “a frieze on screen.” A mother cycles through her own often dissonant identities: “soother, watcher, blame-taker.” And both mother and child assume another, significant role: artistic collaborators.
For Day of the Child is a poem co-created by child and mother, offering a space in which each’s stories, thoughts, words—“unbound / by Time & time’s delineations”—tangle together. In which apartness—“Oh indivisible divisible,” the presence of another heart beating inside the mother’s own body—is continually negotiated. And in which the mother considers her place as intermediary between the child and the world: her protection, her complicity, her joy. Its octave pairs ebb and flow, expand and contract, producing a portrait of raising another human as refracted as it is circular, just as a river “breaks into many suns, the sun.” For, as the child asserts, “love is a circl[e] round / as a Ball.”
Challenging the notion that parenthood is not itself a poetic endeavor, Day of the Child makes of childrearing “a refrain I reframed each day with new words.”
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Praise and Prizes
"'Uphold heaven—humble & hurting, here—rapt,' Arra Lynn Ross writes early on in Day of the Child. This pristine line opens like a fan and radiates through the entire collection—it bears the dazzling solace and resolve to be with and bear it. Ross’s fervent and riveted eye threads the needle, piercing 'us, tripped of facades, gods' and 'a finger, wet, running the wine glasses’ rims for water’s pitch: listen.' In fact, each poem imprints a new way to listen, a new way to hone the listening so that ‘rapt’ becomes a diurnal conduit. In a series of phrasal movements, the day’s accretion gathers tenfold to make childhood, which builds to encompass more time and deeper lineage. But there is nothing without the day and for the day to accrue we must know the choral minutes that grow in its interior. Tranche by tranche, Arra Lynn Ross makes a diurnal map, each one articulated, held and here."
“What good luck to encounter the work of a poet of such recognizable gifts, a poet whose syntax is a music all its own, whose imagery is both tenderness and insight, whose narrative skills create a world both its own and ours. Arra Lynn Ross has made for us a book-long poetics of parenthood: a lyric meditation where the mysterium of time is sang for all to see. Open this book on any page and watch how a mother stands between the outside word and her child, making a lullaby for any age that both protects and reveals. Here language itself becomes the act of parenthood. What a book!”
"Day of the Child is an embodiment of a poetic tradition internalized and reinvented: Ross's music, meter, patterns of sound, and syntax may suggest Hopkins and cummings and Berryman, but they display a precision, an attention, and a skill that are their maker's own. Like a stone that, broken, reveals the mystery of a geode's brilliant facets, Day of the Child is a revelation of the complex and often beautiful experiences of being-mother, of mothering, and of being-child. Arra Ross has made—the verbs for intricate needlework would be appropriate here—a portrait of and in time that is painstaking in its accounting and recounting of the totally ordinary, totally precious facts of daily life."