The Second Child

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  • Edition: Reprint
  • Format: Trade Paper
  • Copyright: 2008-04-01
  • Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks
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Nine years after the stunning debut of her critically acclaimed poetry collectionA Working Girl Can't Win, which chronicled the progress and predicaments of a young woman, Deborah Garrison now moves into another stage of adulthoodstarting a family and saying good-bye to a more carefree self. InThe Second Child, Garrison explores every facet of motherhoodthe ambivalence, the trepidation, and the joy ("Sharp bliss in proximity to the roundness, / The globe already set aspin, particular / Of a whole new life") and comes to terms with the seismic shift in her outlook and in the world around her. She lays out her post-9/11 fears as she commutes daily to the city, continues to seek passion in her marriage, and wrestles with her feelings about faith and the mysterious gift of happiness. Sometimes sensual, sometimes succinct, always candid,The Second Childis a meditation on the extraordinariness resident in the everydaynursing babies, missing the past, knowing when to lead a child and knowing when to let go. With a voice sound and wise, Garrison examines a life fully lived. From the Hardcover edition.

Author Biography

Deborah Garrison is the author of A Working Girl Can’t Win: and Other Poems. For fifteen years, she worked on the editorial staff of The New Yorker and is now the poetry editor af Alfred A. Knopf and a senior editor at Pantheon Books. She lives with her husband and three children in Montclair, New Jersey.

From the Hardcover edition.


On New Terms

I’d like to begin again. Not touch my own face, not tremble in the dark before an intruder who never arrives. Not apologize. Not scurry, not pace. Not refuse to keep notes of what meant the most. Not skirt my father’s ghost. Not abandon piano, or a book before the end. Not count, count, count and wait, poised—the control, the agony controlled—for the loss of the one, having borne, I can’t be, won’t breathe without: the foregone conclusion, the pain not yet met, the preemptive mourning without which nothing left of me but smoke.

Goodbye, New York (song from the wrong side of the Hudson)

You were the big fat city we called hometown You were the lyrics I sang but never wrote down

You were the lively graves by the highway in Queens the bodega where I bought black beans

stacks of the Times we never read nights we never went to bed

the radio jazz, the doughnut cart the dogs off their leashes in Tompkins Square Park

You were the tiny brass mailbox key the joy of “us” and the sorrow of “me”

You were the balcony bar in Grand Central Station the blunt commuters and their destination

the post-wedding blintzes at 4 a.m. and the pregnant waitress we never saw again

You were the pickles, you were the jar You were the prizefight we watched in a bar

the sloppy kiss in the basement at Nell’s the occasional truth that the fortune cookie tells

Sinatra still swinging at Radio City You were ugly and gorgeous but never pretty

always the question, never the answer the difficult poet, the aging dancer

the call I made from a corner phone to a friend in need, who wasn’t at home

the fireworks we watched from a tenement roof the brash allegations and the lack of any proof

my skyline, my byline, my buzzer and door now you’re the dream we lived before

Not Pleasant but True

This afternoon when the bus turned hard by the graveyard,

the stones sugared with snow, I wanted to go there, underground.

You’re thirteen weeks old. Cold shock, as never wished before:

to die and be buried, close under the packed earth,

safe for an eternal instant from my constant, fevered fear that

you’d die. Relief warming my veins,

and you relieved forever of my looming, teary watch.

Someone take from me this crazed love,

such battering care I lost my mind—

I was going to leave you without a mother!

Play Your Hand

A joy so full it won’t fit in a body. Like sound packed in a trumpet’s bell, its glossy exit retains that shape, printing

its curve in reverse on the ear. A musical house, with more children than you planned for, a smallest hand, and fingers

of that hand closing on one of yours, making a handle, pulling the lever gaily down, ringing in the first

jackpot of many, with coins and cries, heavenly noise, a crashing pile of minor riches—

And if the worst thing imaginable were to happen where does the happiness go?

The melody flown (where?), you think you wouldn’t live one more day. But you would.

Days don’t stop. You toss your glove at the moon, you don’t know what may come down.

From the Hardcover edition.

Excerpted from The Second Child: Poems by Deborah Garrison
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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