your bald cry Took its place among the elements. (2-3)
This is it. The baby has arrived. And it does so with a huge, bawling
cry. Nevertheless, our speaker seems pretty unwilling to recognize this
baby as a human being. It's something less than that. Sure, our speaker
calls the baby's cry elemental – but then again, rocks are elemental as
well. It's not that big of an honor.
[…] your nakedness shadows our safety. (5-6)
Confused? So are we. It seems like this phrase could have two meanings:
either the baby's nakedness emphasizes the relative safety of the adults
watching it (and thus inspires the speaker to take care of the baby), or
the baby's neediness impinges upon the speaker's "safety" – i.e., her
right to live her life just as she wants. Is "shadowing" a good thing or
a bad thing? We're just not sure. Our hunch is that the speaker's not
We stand round blankly as walls. (6)
It's like the arrival of this new baby has reduced the speaker (and
those around her) to less-than-people. Heck, they're not even
wallflowers. They're just… walls. That's not exactly a desired form of
being – at least, as far as our speaker is concerned.
I'm no more your mother Than the cloud that distills a mirror to reflect its own slow Effacement at the wind's hand. (7-9)
Once again, our speaker is playing some fancy tricks with words. Is she
saying that she's not the baby's mother? Or is she asserting that the
baby has a place in the natural order of things? You could even call
this a poetic version of "The Circle of Life." As the mother grows
older, new lions come into the world. Or, um, babies.
One cry, and I stumble from bed, cow-heavy and floral In my Victorian nightgown. (13-14)
This is the only explicit self-portrait that we get from our speaker in
the entire poem, and it's not a pretty one. "Cow-heavy and floral"?
We're not exactly chomping at the bit to join her. Is this description
overly harsh? Or is it an honest assessment of her new place in life?
Either way, it's not all that inspiring. Which is pretty much our
And now you try Your handful of notes; (16-17)
This is the first time in the poem that the baby's sounds have been described as conscious
linguistic productions, which is a huge shift. It suggests that our
speaker might have shifted her perspective, as well – the baby's not
just a creature in the world. It's a thinking being, and a creative one,
at that. After all, music is a creative act. Now that's a big step up
from a "bald cry."