Artist | Writer | Therapist
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writing

writings on food, the creative process, on how to be in a relationship with myself. writings even on writing. 

"i don't feel like a lion anymore" (the labor poem)

This poem was read aloud both at the Fremont Abbey Arts Center's "The Round" on February 13, 2018 and on "The Appetite" podcast, in a bonus episode set to release on March 7, 2018. It was written to be read aloud...so if you want to hear it read to you like it's storytime...check out the link below and hear me chat about the process.


I watched my best friend labor in a bathtub last week.
I was called in between contractions and
I rushed there,
coming in from the worst January rain

with one bottle of water,
two string cheeses,
one sandwich and one bagel,
two juices,
and three pastries in tow
all in paper Starbucks bags packed to the edges
hoping that if I covered all the major food groups
even if I didn’t have the right thing to say
I would have something valuable to offer.

I’ve watched the women around me grow babies in their bellies
creating a space inside themselves that I don’t think I have
I’ve watched my best friends holding children in their arms that they made
while I, myself struggle with believing I can make anything of value to me at all.

But when I walked into the delivery room, I walked in teary eyed,
honored and humble and silent.
The delivery room,
was quieter than I expected.
The voice of my best friend
the only audible voice in the room
everyone else around her in a sacred hush

And I saw her
on knees and hands
the sway of her hips
stomach reaching to the ground
the whole room centered around her body:
her body like a force rooting down.

She spoke sparingly.

I wandered around the quiet room,
bottle of juice in my hand
a straw available for her lips.

Her breath started
picking up pace
teeth clenched
the
hooo
hoooo
hooooo

of my best friend.

Hours passed and her body swayed wider
as her baby boy came closer and closer down.
I saw her shoulders slump a little
and with her voice,
she said
“I don’t think I can do this.”
But then gathered our warm faces with her eyes
and through a seething breath went
hooo
hoooo
hooooo


From the back of the room,
I watched her knees slip a little on the floor of the bathtub
getting shaky.
Voices around her speaking up now:
“You’re as strong as a lion.”

She winced a little,
Body hunched
and used her voice and said,
“I don’t feel like a lion anymore.”
hooo
hoooo
hooooo

“I don’t feel like a lion anymore.”

But then
she felt her husband’s palm
on the small of her back
rising in and out of the water.
She then grasped her own mothers’ hands,
gathering all the lion back into her
and used her voice--
started talking to her own baby boy
through clenched teeth:

Baby boy,
we’re almost there.
Baby boy. I can’t wait to meet you.
Baby boy,
you’re doing so good.

Is this not what a voice is for?
To speak out loud your slumping shoulders
to let it be known?

"I don’t feel like a lion anymore."
Is this not what a voice is for?
To call it out
and then to call yourself up--
letting yourself fall apart just a little bit
so you can bring yourself back together again?

“Baby boy,
Baby boy.
I am here.”
She said with her voice.

I have watched my best friends grow babies in their bellies,
creating space that I don’t think I have.
So
my voice.
My voice.
What is it for?

I hear it booming through this room,
The echo of it between seats.
My voice--
I have no idea what it sounds like to you.

Is it supposed to sound sharp in cadence?
Voice of a slam poet:
provocative,
loud,
on beat?
Is my voice supposed to sound clear
or strong?
Because I too
don’t feel like a lion anymore.

I have watched the women around me birth babies and businesses
and I don’t know.
I don’t know.
hooo
hoooo
hooooo

I once was full of clarity,
persistence.
I don’t feel like a lion anymore.
I have heard so many stories
from other people’s mouths--
I, myself, trying their voices on as harmony
to my own.
I have heard so much
that my own voice
no longer booms in my own head.
It’s become over-crowded in here.

hooo
hoooo
hooooo


Isn’t that what a voice is for?

I hear my own voice in unison now:
“I don’t feel like a lion anymore.”
Saying it out loud
is good enough.
“I don’t feel like a lion anymore.”
Is this not what a voice is for?
To let deep sighs out, to be known?

hooo
hoooo
hooooo


“Baby boy, you’re almost here,”
my best friend says
with her voice.

I talk to myself:
“Baby girl,
you’re doing so good.

hooo
hoooo
hooooo

- Carter Umhau 

Carter Umhau1 Comment