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From the Desk of Commissioner Gordon


How poetry and motherhood are similar: both take you out of your self, blur your boundaries. Here’s Czeslaw Milosz in "Arts Poetica?": “The purpose of poetry is to remind us how difficult it is to remain just one person, for our house is open, there are no keys in the doors, and invisible guests come in and out at will.” Become a mother and you are never just one person again.

Another similarity: both a baby and a poem masquerade as something we’ve created, when we know that they arrive from somewhere beyond us, that they are gifts. When the poetry is working, it doesn’t feel so much that I’m crafting it as that it’s presenting itself. Of course it’s not often like this, but it has been--the bright ribbon of the poem unspooling in my mind and waiting while my fingers fasten it to the paper. I’ve had that. God, I’ve had that.

And it’s the same with my daughter Claire, but more so. People look at her and they say, “Oh, she’s so smart, so verbal!” They say, “What a delightful child.” What do I say? I say, “Thank you.” As if it were my doing. But really I want to say, “I know! I can’t understand it! From where did this creature arrive?”

There’s so much in her I can’t take credit for. The past few days she’s been calling me “Missy Gorio.” I haven’t understood what this meant, which has frustrated her. Last night, I was fastening the cape onto the Velcro tabs at the shoulders of her Batman pajamas--got them in the boy’s section and we both adore them--and she again called me “Missy Gorio.” For the first time I realized she meant “Commissioner Gordon.” “Yes, Batman?” I asked her. And she threw her chubby arms around Commissioner Gordon’s neck, who kissed her happily before tucking her snugly into the Bat Cave.


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Beth Ann Fennelly received a 2003 National Endowment for the Arts Award. Her book Open House won the 2001 Kenyon Review Prize for a First Book and the GLCA New Writers Award. Her newest book, Tender Hooks, was published in April 2004 by W. W. Norton. She is an Assistant Professor at the University of Mississippi and lives in Oxford, MS.