Even the noun is off.
Retrieval -- the act of getting
something back, as though
a long needle passing through
her vagina wall to draw
her eggs out one by one
while she lies sedated, but
conscious, is any kind of re-
turn. Or do they mean retrieval
as the finding and extracting
of data from a storage device;
her eggs genetic information
to be read and used?
Or perhaps, simply, the rescue from
a state of difficulty or collapse.
She sits in her garden with her
swollen abdomen, her hysterical
pregnancy almost as big as the
belly of a pregnant friend who
will come later for dinner and
distraction. The strangest thought is
her six eggs now outside herself
in the care of embryologists. Even
now, as shade begins to fall across
her bean shoots and new flax
her eggs are in test tubes in a lab,
being carefully fertilised.
She is in the shower.
Outside the sun is shining.
Through frosted glass she
sees him come into the garden
with his breakfast bowl
so she opens the window wide.
They called, he says,
it's good news.
-- We've got embryos.
She leans from the window
all wet and fresh with soap
and kisses him.
Mapping the Distance (VUP) first came out. At the launch, poet and academic Ingrid Horrocks said she wasn't sure about the final series of poems in the collection (of which this is one) because, I think she said, they weren't quite ready - or perhaps she hadn't thought them through enough. They are very recent poems for a collection that has been crafted over ten years.
I like them very much. It is the material - a couple trying to conceive - that grabs the attention and the way this intensely personal material is delivered with searing honesty. The rawness of the feelings is deeply affecting, as is the way the cerebral [the driving force behind Ingrid's poems] is perforce surrendered to the mysterious workings of the human body and the deeper mysteries of science. Most of all, the power of this final segment of the book is the way it becomes the happy ending to a love story.
For although the book is about mapping the distances travelled on land and between people and through time, it's most of all (it seems to me) a love story between two people - the waiting for, the beginnings, the shock of intimacy, the settling down ... and, finally, after much heartache, the conception. No surprise the collection is dedicated to Ingrid's partner, Tim.
And this poem? I love the wonder of her leaning 'wet and fresh with soap', and the sweetness and wetness of the kiss. And before that the water and the light in the garden, and the frosted glass - and her anxious, perhaps, or just not knowing, behind it. The openness and 'ohs' of the breakfast bowl and window and embryo and soap bring the good news with them ... This joyful glistening image contrasts wonderfully with the etymological discussion of Egg Retrieval at the start of the poem, and the careful couplets of Later.
I also love the way What Comes Next speaks to the first poem in the collection which has Ingrid's great aunt leaning from a window in Italy eating a fig. In this poem, too, there is a garden, and the fig is wet and cool.
Mapping the Distance is a pleasure for the careful way it crafts language to shape experience but most of all for its voice - a cool, gentle, honest, erudite voice that knows love and how to love. Like the mouth in the final lines of the book, this poet spills words like birds.