Birthing : a reworking of She sleeps, she coos


Within the netted pyramid she
Slumps, the ancient book forgotten.
Dead words war
Into the dreams of the
Nile courting her with carrion eye
Lids from vultures’ leavings.

Without, the screaming nuzzles through
Feathered downs of drowsiness. She
Hears the wake of crying
In a litter of whistling
Breaths. The mother coos
The new births into mews.

This poem is a re-working of the last poem I posted last week. Here is how I went about it:

In the first two lines of the first stanza the rhythm is regular : in the first line, regular rising tones – unstress then stress; in the second, a falling tone, the stressing scheme reversed. There are around 4 beats in each line, with some unstress to stress promotion on particular syllables, to maintain the tone schemes. I place ‘she’ right at the end of line 1 to evoke a breathing out sound, usually heard when one is sleeping deeply.

I break from these regular rhythms in the 3rd line with three stressed monosyllabic words. You read them slowly: I want to make the reader feel something is ominous in ‘Dead words war’. The pace picks up in the next line, which has only one stressed word, ‘dreams’, right centre of it. The speed rushes at the start of this line, and slows at ‘dreams’, and picks up again after it. This gives the effect of a rushing about in her dreams.

The last two lines in this stanza is Dali-esque: the scene is weird and unreal. You see the Nile trying to seduce her with some nasty torn flesh from remains of some vultures’ scavenging meal. For the last line here I try to evoke some lulling effect by using a lot of ‘l’ sounds.

In the next stanza a crying sound outside of her bedroom (or her sleep/dream) is trying to break into her consciousness. In the first two lines I repeat the rising and falling tone schemes of the first two lines of the first stanza. I also place ‘she’ at the end of a line, instead of in line 1, in line 2 this time.

Finally she wakes to the sound of first breaths during birthing, like the whistling sound you hear when you squeeze the air out of a beach ball. We now see, or rather, hears a mother making soothing sounds to her new litter. The nearly but not actual half rhymes of ‘coos’ and ‘mews’ signal the end of the piece.


  1. mistyeiz says

    wow.....thats something really new to me. thanks. ;)

    bibliobibuli says

    I like this version much better ... you're really getting there.

    Leon Wing says

    I'm glad I read out the earlier version before all you QDs, and it's from all your honest reactions that I got to gauge which parts or lines worked and which didn't.

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