The Second Child


Nine years after the stunning debut of her critically acclaimed poetry collection A Working Girl Can’t Win, which chronicled the progress and predicaments of a young woman, Deborah Garrison now moves into another stage of adulthood–starting a family and saying good-bye to a more carefree self.

In The Second Child, Garrison explores every facet of motherhood–the ambivalence, the trepidation, and the joy (“Sharp bliss in proximity to the roundness, / The globe already set aspin, ...

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The Second Child

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Nine years after the stunning debut of her critically acclaimed poetry collection A Working Girl Can’t Win, which chronicled the progress and predicaments of a young woman, Deborah Garrison now moves into another stage of adulthood–starting a family and saying good-bye to a more carefree self.

In The Second Child, Garrison explores every facet of motherhood–the 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 Child is a meditation on the extraordinariness resident in the everyday–nursing 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.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
With its accessible wit, and its clear, unpretentious depictions of young Manhattanites' worries and joys, Garrison's 1998 debut, A Working Girl Can't Win, won rare attention. The poetry editor at Knopf, Garrison resides in northern New Jersey with three young children: these poems chronicle her new, decidedly family-centered life, with the same offhand charm. Writing of infants, she speaks as a mother to mothers, understanding both love and fatigue: "Have you/ ever been in the shuttered room/ where life is milk? Where you make/ milk?" As her children grow up (and grow in number), Garrison's poetry follows them: "No time for a sestina for the working mother/ Who has so much to do." Other recurring topics appear through the lens of motherhood. September 11 gave her a "powerful and inarticulate" wish "to be pregnant"; charming amorous poems depict her continuing ties to her husband, the father of her children, and a bus ride through the Lincoln Tunnel reminds her that "life is good,/ despite everything." While many of Garrison's poems may not surprise, they may provoke shocks of recognition in many readers-parents, in particular-who should find both her topics and her tones reassuringly familiar. (Feb.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780812973884
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 4/1/2008
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 96
  • Product dimensions: 5.11 (w) x 7.99 (h) x 0.31 (d)

Meet the Author

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.

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Read an Excerpt

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.

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Table of Contents

On New Terms     3
Goodbye, New York     4
Not Pleasant but True     6
Play Your Hand     8
Both Square and Round     10
A Short Skirt on Broadway     12
The Past Is Still There     15
How Many     16
Bedtime Story     18
I Saw You Walking     22
The Second Child     27
"Mother, may I inherit your grace"     29
A Drink in the Night     31
Poem About an Owl     33
A Human Calculation     35
Sestina for the Working Mother     36
To the Man in a Loden Coat     38
Either Way, No Way     40
Pink and White     43
September Poem     44
Birth Day Pun     49
Unbidden Sonnet with Evergreen     52
Song After Everyone's Asleep     53
A Midnight Bris     54
The Necklace     57
Into the Lincoln Tunnel     59
Dad, You Returned to Me Again     61
A Joke     63
Add One     65
Cascade     67
Someday We Will Have to Drop the Objects to Which Our Hands Now Cling     70
A Piece of Paper     72
Above the Roar     75
Acknowledgments     79
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