181.1: Michelle Y. Burke:: Brood & Narcissus & Narcissus II 181

In this group of poems, Michelle Y. Burke takes on the subject of pregnancy with unexpected anxiety and a keen sense of the uncanny (which seems a necessary, if not often narrated, part of having another being growing inside you). Burke's poems eschew a pre-scripted narrative of pregnancy in favor of a more Alien one. Of having two heartbeats in one body, she writes, "A thing should be one thing or another. Not both/and." This group of poems is less Miracle of Life and more brooding, to use the author's word. Burke explores all definitions of brood: as a noun for children and chicks; and as a verb, to hover over or think anxiously about. To be in a state of depression, even. By invoking the Narcissus myth, Burke engages the selfishness of the desire to have children without denying the work and worry that goes into it. Cheeky and irreverent, this author can't explain "why I love you like the chipped mug I'll never throw away (unless it leaks)"; to her characters, even conception is just a shared surprise. S. Whitney Holmes


Hey there     can’t we     just a little     look     by placing my hand     on the cat

I lower my chance     of heart attack     also, cuckoos lay eggs     in the nests

of other birds     —parasitic brooding—     we’ll never know what

we don’t know     cats purr between     20 and 140 hertz     the right frequency

for bone growth     I can’t explain why the crow     raises the cuckoo

why I love you     like the chipped mug I’ll never throw away     (unless it leaks)

a doctor measures the translucency     at the back of my unborn baby’s neck

then tells me how much     and for whom     I should worry     when threatened

cuckoo chicks expel a foul liquid     predators dislike     Mother Crow,

were you relieved to find your babies alive     and trembling in a viscous pool?

Listen, I have never been so relieved     to see so little transparency


Daffodils reproduce asexually and sexually. How wonderful to have options.

Also, the Latin name for a daffodil is Narcissus.

Narcissus the man fell in love with himself then killed himself because his love

             could not be reciprocated. Asexual reproduction a no-go.

The gods, they were always springing whole from one another’s foreheads

             and thighs, but the humans, they could only conceive thigh on thigh,

             the surprise in their eyes mirrored in the eyes of another.

Narcissus II

A thing should be one thing or another. Not both/and. Not God and human.

Right now inside my body there is one heart beating 70 beats per minute

             and another beating 140.

Like if you cracked open a chocolate bunny and found another chocolate bunny inside,

             only smaller and with a faster heartbeat.

Like if you draw a circle big enough any one piece of it viewed closely

             would look like a line. At some point would become a line.