At a poetry workshop in the Sierras, a bunch of us gather for lunch
after the morning session. The workshop leader
tells us about the young niece he adores, says he’s jealous
of children who pee their pants from laughing.
I look around and guess—no one else at the small table has given birth—
and I almost say once you have a baby, there’s much more opportunity
to pee one’s pants, laughing or coughing, you name it.
But there’s shame in it, how the body becomes compromised,
makes its small refusals. Almost mournful
that you never understood its near perfection until then.
It makes me feel old, this temptation to warn people
off from reproduction, nature’s ransom as John Updike called it.
Not only the bladder. Also the acne scars in my chin
from the months of pregnancy and the three plus years of nursing
during which my hormones ran wild and I had to let them.
The thickening of my belly and thighs after
the boy was persuaded to give up breasts.
And yet the laughter of my son catches me
like a hot air balloon’s lift. I don’t try to stop
myself each day from marveling out loud at his beauty.
When he dresses in the morning
his flawless suit of skin strikes awe the way
my breath catches when Mount Rainier
emerges ahead of a traffic jam.
The surveys say people without children are happier.
No matter. I’d pay again.