The Body Exquisite: Sharan Strange
The Child Who Cried in the Womb
I imagine the setting suited her—a pliant container
accommodating her will, its membrane stretching
in perfect affirmation of her reach,
even the assorted sounds and the light filtering in
—yes, there was a kind of light—merging,
reverberating her own pulsing song.
But her beginning must have been uncertain,
a winter gestation—nature seeking closure,
erasure of another cycle. The frost a downy lining
for a final bed, the cold’s stinging reminder
that the body is but vulnerable nerve, tenuous
flesh. Being a seed, she was expected,
like all seeds, to endure by turning,
first inward to fatten her own heart,
then outward to bloom in vegetable beatitude.
Yet conceived in such a time, she would inherit
the sorrows of that season, the void left by migrant birds,
the sadness of all those who cannot see past interrupted joy.
And into her peaceful estuary would come waves of discontent—
the daily worries of her would-be father, the drum-tide
of her would-be mother’s fears—echoes
of that territory outside herself,
its airy vastness churning, buffeting….
The water soothed these discomforts, so she cried.
Perhaps then she pondered a permanent stay,
that way she needn’t decipher the world beyond her boundaries,
its rules or who’d made them,
or navigate the errant paths they’d laid.
In the primordial privacy of her little house,
she had sovereignty. She had the leisure
of unhurried desire and idea.
Later, she would only vaguely remember having relinquished Paradise—
shedding the supple, snug gourd,
amniotic dream giving way to the quickening
of body, tongue, speech,
blossoming from her own tears.
Sharan Strange has work in Black Imagination (ed. Natasha Marin, 2020) and Furious Flower: Seeding the Future of African American Poetry (ed. Joanne V. Gabbin and Lauren K. Alleyne, 2020) and forthcoming in Bigger Than Bravery: Black Writers Respond to the Pandemic, Shutdown, and Uprising of 2020 (ed. Valerie Boyd, 2022). She recently completed a new libretto for composer Courtney Bryan and is collaborating on an upcoming opera for International Contemporary Ensemble. Her writings have also been presented in museum and gallery exhibitions in New York, Boston, Atlanta, Oakland, and Seattle.