Why Fuji, Baby (Laura Matwichuk) is on Arc’s Shortlist

Fuji, Baby

As the HR MacMillan Space Centre’s sky
theatre goes dim, my thoughts flip back
like a page to Honshu Island,
tourists ascending eroded, trash-
laden paths under cover of darkness
to glimpse milky morning light
from Fuji’s summit. Recently,
I watched a video of the sun rising
to calm myself. Then clicked on
a weird time-lapse GIF depicting
how a mother’s internal organs
move out of the way as her baby
grows. When I tried to find it again
to show you, I couldn’t get
the search term right. I can’t forget
how the sonographer paused,
transducer in hand, to say “Let’s double-
check that,” her words a fault line
in my heart cracking open.
After the appointment, I took a taxi
to meet you for the concert,
frantically Googling normal bi-parietal
diameter en route, too petrified to read
the results it generated. You said
the musician was hosting a workshop,
“Laugh with Laraaji,” to help people
get in touch with their inner child. I
couldn’t tell if you were
confessing your desire to attend,
mentioning it for my sake, or as
a joke. Sure, I’ve been under some
stress lately. Moving slow as a parade
float drenched in tinsel. Because
my heart hurts. Doubled blood volume
roiling like lava through four red
chambers. Each day, up with the sunrise
because my inner child is a metaphor
and a literal tiny child who kicks
me awake. Myself and someone
else, two me’s. When he flipped
into breach, I spent a week doing
inversions on the carpet. You shone
an incandescent flashlight
at my belly, placed foam headphones
around it. On the advice of
the acupuncturist, burned moxa
by my pinkie toes, hoping the heat
would transmit a message to our son:
go easy on me. Everyone in the sky
theatre is 23 and high and not
pregnant. They smell like sweat
and spearmint gum. I don’t care
anymore. Laraaji is banging a gong
and cackling into a microphone
as galaxies slide on curved screens
above his head. He wears robes
the colour of the scorching sun.
Sometimes laughter swims
through the body like a sound
wave traveling back to the probe
as an echo but there’s no GIF
depicting this. Cherry blossoms
fall like floral meteors into a pond
behind the planetarium at the same
rate of speed as at the base of Fuji.
A mother eagle assembles a sturdy
moss and feather loft for her newborns
in the highest tree in Vanier Park
because the view is nice. Perhaps
Japanese bird mothers do the same,
because who wouldn’t want
the very best for their children’s
eyeballs? Who wouldn’t want to
listen to the calming sounds of
Laraaji’s collaborator Brian Eno
during 39 hours of labour
followed by emergency C-section?
You place an iPod beside
the hospital bathtub and Apollo
drowns out my screams. I see stars.
Fly to Japan. Leave earth’s atmosphere
in a nitrous-fuelled rocket ship.
Beta blockers slow pyroclastic flows
in my heart through the worst of it.
Even in this altered state,
I’m only pretending I don’t know
what is happening to me. I know.
As they lift the tiny person over
the paper scaffolding and place him
on my chest like a warm island,
the sun rises over a mountain
of ash and snow, carving living pathways
through the maternity ward.


Laura Matwichuk’s poems have appeared in literary journals in Canada and the US. Her debut collection is forthcoming from Nightwood Editions in Spring 2019. She lives in Vancouver.

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