Wednesday, August 17, 2011

the only thing you remember is your life

i half kid that there must be an army of 2030 or something because all of the women i know giving birth this year are so amazing. some have already had their babies, some are about to enter into this wonderful world of motherhood. there is a poem that i have always loved even before the thought of having a child was on my horizon. it really helped me when i was facing labor, thinking about all of the women who have come before me and how so very many have fewer resources and access to adequate health care. it is a little dark but so, so beautiful and dear to me. i am excited for all of you soon to be mothers - it's been such a treat to see your bellies bloom. sending extra good thoughts to louise who is due today!!

los nacimientos (births)

we will never have any memory of dying.
we were so patient
about our being,
noting down
numbers, days,
years and months,
hair, and the mouths we kiss,
and that moment of dying
we let pass without a note -
we leave it to others as memory,
or we leave it simply to water,
to water, to air, to time.
nor do we even keep
the memory of being born,
although to come into being was tumultuous and new;
and now you don’t remember a single detail
and haven’t kept even a trace
of your first light.
it’s well known that we are born.
it’s well known that in the room
or in the wood
or in the shelter in the fishermen’s quarter
or in the rustling canefields
there is a quite unusual silence,
a grave and wooden moment as
a woman prepares to give birth.
it’s well known that we were all born.
but if that abrupt translation
from not being to existing, to having hands,
to seeing, to having eyes,
to eating and weeping and overflowing
and loving and loving and suffering and suffering,
of that transition, that quivering
of an electric presence, raising up
one body more, like a living cup,
and of that woman left empty,
the mother who is left there in her blood
and her lacerated fullness,
and its end and its beginning, and disorder
tumbling the pulse, the floor, the covers
till everything comes together and adds
one knot more to the thread of life,
nothing, nothing remains in your memory
of the savage sea which summoned up a wave
and plucked a shrouded apple from the tree.
the only thing you remember is your life.

-pablo neruda

p.s. we didn't take a lot of photos for the first couple weeks after elodie was born. i could say that i am sad about that but then i see the pictures above and it takes me to that moment that i met my little girl for the first time. what else could i hope for?


  1. Wonderful, I love Neruda.
    Your daughter is so precious, I found your blog a couple of days ago and I like it a lot *-*

  2. wow what a beautiful poem! And it didn't surprise me at all to read the name Pablo Neruda at the end.

  3. breathtaking...both the poem and that sweet, sweet baby girl. i had your same thoughts before giving birth to my boy (7+ months ago)...scared and nervous...but so empowered by all the women who've gone before us. truly an incredible experience to have lived. love your blog, elizabeth!

  4. Thank you for sharing this poem - it is so beautiful!! I love it. It reminds me how amazing motherhood and birth really is.

  5. So very special and I love that poem. Just beautiful! BTW, isn't it funny how all newborns seem to have that same hospital baby hat? Both of my kids were given one and they were born in different hospitals.

  6. that's so beautiful. thank you for sharing it.

  7. So, so beautiful---the poem and your family.

  8. i love this sooooo much, elizabeth....

  9. Hi Elizabeth, this is my first time posting here. I love your blog and discovered it when A Cup of Jo had a link to your Down South (au sud) post and amazing mix. I've really enjoyed your blog ever since and this poem is so beautiful. Such a wonderful reminder. :)

  10. I love you both so much! :) xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxo

  11. De-lurking to say...I was near sobbing after reading this Pablo Neruda poem. He's definitely on my Top 5 Writers list. I am at "the office", aka Starbucks, writing today, and I am so glad I decided to goof off and read into your archives. What an utterly amazing piece. Perhaps I'll read it again at home so I can have a good cry!


  12. perfect, wonderful Neruda. love this, so right.