by MELISSA DICKEY
reviewed by EMILY TEITSWORTH
Rescue Press, 2016
Dragons is a heartwarming and harsh study of the months leading up to having a child, birth, and the difficult time after birth when first learning how to be a mother. The collection addresses the ways motherhood has affected the narrator in both positive and negative ways. The first section of the collection is comprised of dreamy, summery prose poems following birth and the days immediately following. This section is a striking view of how no new mother can ever be fully ready for her child to enter the world. Dickey writes “When I began to come out of it, they wheeled me into the NICU (“nick you”, everyone says) and I did what they said: Hold your baby. Give her a kiss. I did what they said I did what they said I did.” This perfectly illustrates the feeling of being dazed while also bonding with your child.
The second section delves deeper into the topic of parent preparedness, especially in terms of fear before the child is born. Dickey writes in this section that the narrator “Dreamt: had the baby premature at home.” This fear speaks to any soon-to-be mother, where worrying for the child becomes the mother’s preoccupation just before the birth takes place. Dickey gorgeously and tactfully addresses fear here, and follows this section up with an equally tactful recollection of the baby’s first days at home. She writes about how a mother slowly begins to feel connected to her child and fears for them, but also begins to see their world through the eyes of a mother rather than just a singular person. Dickey writes “I was a little less without him here,” evoking the feeling of committing oneself to the child she has borne.
Later in the collection, Dickey contemplates loss when she writes about the narrator losing a family member. By recalling memories with this loved family member, Dickey explores feelings of sadness, and more importantly, feelings of joy about the time spent together before death. With this narration, Dickey manages to begin the book with birth and end it with death. Birth and death become foils for one another. Birth is the start of seeing the world through different eyes, and death continues that pattern, albeit in a more melancholy and wistful way. One of the most powerful lines in the collection was “losing yourself in your body, In bodies you’ve made.” This encompasses both the feeling of losing yourself in your love for your child, and losing yourself over the death of those you have loved. The collection strives to contemplate what it means to lose yourself in the people around you, and how best to live a good life when you’ve pledged it to those you love.
EMILY TEITSWORTH has a BA in Creative Writing and a BA in Publishing & Editing. She is an assistant editor for The Adirondack Review and an intern at the Santa Fe Writer's Project. Her work has been previously published in The Apeiron Review, Stone Canoe, and Rock & Sling.