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Mother’s bleeding her dead children
single-celled, invertebrate
born in the water of her womb
after the Word, below the light
amniotic deaths, sand and silt shrouds
mass graves of viscous black rot

Mother’s bleeding, her dead children
finned, feathered, furred
still in the water where life began
anointed by the exhumed hemorrhage
innocent sacrifice of awakening
your sleeping terrestrial siblings

Mother’s bleeding her, dead, children
thin-skinned, thick-headed
water and oil have never mixed
excuses confuse a simple choice
eat, drink, breathe where if her wounds drain dry?
return to her—or return to her
She will welcome you, either way

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Ronlyn Domingue Ronlyn Domingue is the author of The Mapmaker's War (Atria Books, 2013). Its sequel, The Chronicle of Secret Riven, is forthcoming in 2014. Her critically acclaimed debut novel, The Mercy of Thin Air, was published in ten languages. Her writing has appeared in The Beautiful Anthology (TNB Books), New England Review, Clackamas Literary Review, New Delta Review, The Independent (UK) , and Shambhala Sun, as well as on mindful.org, The Nervous Breakdown, and Salon.com. Born and raised in the Deep South, she lives there still with her partner, Todd Bourque, and their cats.

Connect online at ronlyndomingue.com, Facebook, and Twitter.

37 Responses to “Mother’s Bleeding”

  1. Zara Potts says:

    Wow.
    All that… and a poet, too?
    You have such a talent for words, Miss Ronlyn.
    Stunning.

    • Ronlyn Domingue says:

      My stash of bad high school poetry would argue against the “poet” tag.

      Thanks for reading, Zara. XO

  2. Simon Smithson says:

    What is it at now, 59 million barrels, or something similar?

    Catastrophe.

    • The significance of what’s happening is far greater than what can be quantified.

      This is a pivot point. Blame doesn’t solve a damn thing. Individual actions have always mattered, and right now, millions of people have the power to shift the future. We do have choices. Those of generations past have led us to now. Choices made now will affect the generations–human, animal, plant–that may come.

  3. Alison Aucoin says:

    You have unleashed the voice of the silent, innocent masses. I can imagine no one better for the job.

  4. Irene Zion says:

    Ronlyn,
    I didn’t know that you were a poet, along with all your other hats.
    This is beautifully written, as I have come to expect from you.
    Forgive me for typos, I’m on my phone. We’re on another road trip.

    • Ronlyn Domingue says:

      I’m capable of poetic moments. Thanks so much for reading, Irene.

      Have fun on your trip! I hope there are no ghosts. :)

  5. Gloria says:

    The final two lines are incredibly powerful. Wow.

    • Ronlyn Domingue says:

      Thanks, Gloria. Those words rushed out of the ether (love when that happens) and seem to drive the point home.

  6. kristen says:

    Love the repetition–your stanzas’ opening lines. The varied punctuation is powerful and effective.

    So lovingly expressed in poem form–way to observe/listen to how this needed to be told.

    • Ronlyn Domingue says:

      Several weeks ago, the first line is what came to me–out of nowhere. When I wrote it down, I realized there were ways to shift meaning with punctutation. Thanks, Muse!

      I thought about writing an essay about the leak. However, I felt that I’d end up writing thousands of words to get across some core pain. So the poem had to be.

  7. Uche Ogbuji says:

    As Kristen said, you manage the stanza opening lines with great, assured power. I don’t know if you were going for it on purpose, but the poem is almost entirely 4 foot accentual until the aching line:

    “eat, drink, breathe where if her wounds drain dry?”

    (6 beats), where the extra beats seem to spill over and heighten the plaintive sense. Very nice.

    • Ronlyn Domingue says:

      I tend to write from an intuitive place and apply craft intermittently through the process. Aside from deliberately keeping references to physical bodies, water, and oil clustered together in each stanza, the rest of the lines flowed on their own. I trusted the “feel” of the words when I read them aloud.

      Having a skilled poet notice such things is quite gratifying!

  8. penelope says:

    I am digging that last stanza, especially: “thin-skinned, thick-headed.” Nice work.

  9. Matt says:

    I’m a terrible critic of poetry, so I’m just going to say, nice job, Ronlyn. I think the middle stanza is my favorite.

    • Ronlyn Domingue says:

      If the poem inspired a feeling or a thought, then it did its work. That’s enough. Thanks for reading!

      • Uche Ogbuji says:

        Strongly agree. Nothing wrong with critics of poetry, but they are never essential. That’s part of the point I try to hammer home in the “Poetry for the Nervous” series.

    • dwoz says:

      do you mean “terrible critic” in the sense of “Ivan the Terrible” or more in the vein of “Obama the Terrible Bowler?”

  10. Judy Prince says:

    Such strength, Ronlyn: “sand and silt shrouds
    mass graves of viscous black rot”

    And in this simple pivot, meanings well beyond the old simple ones: “water and oil have never mixed”

    • Ronlyn Domingue says:

      I actually did some research on how oil was formed. Interesting–and full of images.

      The line you noted struck me as I wrote it. Of course they haven’t. And a human mix of denial, arrogance, ambition, and creativity (the spectrum of positive and negative) allowed this simple fact to be overlooked.

      • Judy Prince says:

        Ronlyn, I somehow feel that there’s a label for such a construct as “water and oil have never mixed”; namely, a somewhat extended metaphor leading us to analogise so many meanings—and from such a “well known” physical fact. I’ll call it “crouching metonymy.”

        It stopped me in my tracks, made me squeeze those words again and again for their layers and depth.

        How about a 150-word explanation of the forming of oil? Fascinating and of course mine-able for more poems as well as prose.

        Oh how apt, your comment: ” . . . a human mix of denial, arrogance, ambition, and creativity (the spectrum of positive and negative) allowed this simple fact to be overlooked.”

        • Uche Ogbuji says:

          “crouching metonymy.” Love it! I’d love to see it in a movie. “Crouching Metonymy, Hidden Synecdoche” :D

          I agree with Judy that it’s basic analogy used cleverly by stating the premise (oil and water don’t mix) while clearly shunning the idiomatic analogue (X and Y personalities do not mix). There is a proper rhetorical term for this device, but it’s eluding me for the moment.

        • dwoz says:

          …”Archetype?”

        • Uche Ogbuji says:

          Nice. Not the term I had in mind, but I like it, though I think we would want to qualify it, something like “discovered archetype” (classic sense of “discover”, of course). As for the term I had in mind, I’ll have to hunt for it in my Lanham later today.

        • Ronlyn Domingue says:

          Judy, regarding the formation of oil, and please forgive the oversimplification….Millions of years ago, single-celled and other small aquatic creatures died and were covered by layers of sand and silt. Through pressure from “soil” and water–and lots of time–the bodies decayed and became oil. Dinosaurs and other animals are NOT part of this substance.

          Uche, I too would absolutely see a movie titled “Crouching Metonymy, Hidden Synecdoche.” (My glee watching the documentary HELVETICA hints at my eclectic tastes.)

          dwoz, your suggestion of “archetype” harkens some wide numinous territory.

        • Uche Ogbuji says:

          Yeah, I loved HELVETICA, too. Maybe we can start a letter writing campaign to the H producers to take on our fantasy theme :)

        • Ronlyn Domingue says:

          Or we could hope that some brilliant producer is reading our comments and pondering a wild, smart new project.

  11. dwoz says:

    There’s a lovely implication in the “oil and water” line…that the past and present are incompatible somehow, and that we cannot discern the commonality.

    • Ronlyn Domingue says:

      Oh, what a fascinating perspective!

      My intial response to your comment was to think of clinging. As humans, we so often cling to what has been and expect it to apply to the present. It’s the learning that happens in the gap between past and present that creates adaptation, movement, growth.

      There’s much to ponder from this comment. Thank you!

      • dwoz says:

        I read that meaning in, as being in reaction to the current oil/water problem in the Gulf, and in two veins…first, we keep not learning from the past, and second, the past will now come out to haunt us.

  12. Erika Rae says:

    This poem really brought back the reclamation act of this event. It’s the”return to her” line…in the thought that the oil is created from dead animals in the first place.

    Powerful.

    • Ronlyn Domingue says:

      The circularity of the piece was not consciously constructed. You pointed out a loop that happened in the writing process.

      Reclamation. Yes. So true. I still hope there’s room for us humans…

  13. Alexis says:

    Just loved it and it’s message; I agree with a prior comment- that you have spoken for the masses in this poem =-D

    • Ronlyn Domingue says:

      Thanks, Alexis. I have a sense that my future work will deal much more with Nature and consciousness. A lot has happened since MERCY.

      Any new developments with your writing?

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