SLIPPING INSIDE FOR A WHILE by Lydia Unsworth

Lydia Unsworth, 2020

I’m heavily pregnant. Heavy, as in the weight pressing from outside is also now pressing out from within. I’m transformed into border. Locked down, locked in. The body pressed away from itself, transformed into extreme manifestations of surface. My navel creeping into contested space … 1.2, 1.3 metres from my neighbour? I don’t know.

That is to say, my practice has become physical. Constrained. I can no longer sit at my computer of an evening (I can no longer stay awake). I must retreat into the body, absorb the world, the articles, the documentaries, the books, the poems, the calories; I must, with eyes wide open, begin to hibernate.

Last pregnancy I wrote with a sense of urgency, as if preparing for death, as if, on the other side there would be no words. And then with that first baby, I wrote on my phone, while pumping milk, while pacing back and forth throughout this city, daughter to chest, without losing stride, trying to navigate two new selves in a then-new home.

Lydia Unsworth, 2020

Earlier in this mirage-like summer I produced a pamphlet with a fellow poet, the editing of which is just coming to a close. This unknown now-friend had bought that previous poetry collection, Nostalgia for Bodies (a collection spliced in two, as was I, into ‘before’ and ‘after’, as am I), and cited a line from it in her previous poetry collection. A borrowing, the re-filtering of one world through another that is itself a form of boundless talking.

For this co-pamphlet, I began with her book and she with mine. We wrote a poem a day through the month of June, each new poem a response to one old poem from the other, chronological, a page at a time. It was a regular meeting, a connection through the bricks and the heat and the advised-against airports and the work-from-home and the constant flinching on narrow streets or in the scrawny necks of supermarket entrances. It was a human obligation, which was exactly how I needed to write through those days.

Lydia Unsworth, Dripping, 2020

But, for now, the belly has become a bubble around oneself. It’s all I can do to keep the head afloat, to acknowledge the passing news, the shifting curfews, the frequent minor explosions of teenage boys outside with motorbikes or fireworks or who knows. The distant city creaks. I prepare to survive death a second time. In less than two months everything I have been holding in will come sprawling out. Minor explosions. Splinters, stitches. I’ll walk, slam, pant, stay awake all night bent pupa over my computer, pages of text running from my eyes.

Lydia Unsworth, 2020

To find out more about Lydia’s writing see her website or Twitter.