We are living in — take your pick — a glorious renaissance era of writing about parenthood or a bathetic swamp of diaper blogs. Deborah Garrison’s latest collection of poems is the highbrow analogue to this cultural boom. Now Garrison is back with this new subject, motherhood. Her once-freewheeling narrator has three children and lives on the other side of the Hudson. And she is astonished to find that she is no longer that high-heeled girl strutting down the street, full of “self-ish pleasure”; instead, she has entered “the shuttered room / where life is milk” and when she walks in Midtown, she is merely headed home. But despite moments of nostalgia, this narrator loves her new life, where a child’s clutching fingers remind her of a lever “ringing in the first / jackpot of many, with coins / and cries, heavenly noise, / a crashing pile / of minor riches.”
In “Sestina for the Working Mother,” she salutes her own busy day, layered with a brief, sentimental fantasy of what it would be like if she stayed home — more NPR, more volunteerism. In “A Midnight Bris,” she recalls a beloved obstretician who had held “my cervix, and me in thrall,” and who gets teary during their final meeting. “But you … so many patients,” she murmurs. “ ‘They’re not all the same,’ he said. / We let that stand.” Such moments feel too self-congratulatory by half.