A palimpsest of other selves. A confluence of cultural histories. A nexus of female identities. Arisa White’s “Post Pardon” emerges as a polyphonic chorus of (m)otherhood—part creation fable and birth story, part ghost story and exorcism, part deconstruction and feminist re-mix of the patriarchal and heteronormative myth of original sin.
This poem haunts me in the way that perhaps many women find themselves haunted by the knowledge—both intellectually and physically—of the potential for (m)otherhood, of the symbiotic tumbling dominoes of intergenerational identities encoded within our bodies. The what if? The portal and conduit. The firmly locked door.
What is unmade in the making?: “There is scraped sky I feel on my neck; planes pass east / or west, away or to JFK; sometimes I think they’ll collapse / because whatever sphere it glides will miscarry and broken / heaven will heave living bodies and a blackbox.”
What is forged in the unmaking?: “My heart frames you: wiping spoons until your face / is held there like silver does a president.”
Woman as precipice, as ledge, as knife’s edge, as spilled cells.
(Unraveled herstories bladed undone by cultural or personal trauma.)
Baby as liminal yellow light, as nebulous, contested space between the parallel realities of stop and go.
Woman as doppelganger, as seer, as creator of worlds and lives.
“Post Pardon” plays on the term post-partum—that period of fallowness, of non-presence, of divided selves—yet also seemingly envisions a feminist space post original sin, in which the fall is no longer a patriarchal expulsion from Eden, or the brutal mechanical crashing of planes from the heavens, but rather the organic, cyclical rhythms of seeds, earth, water, and sun. In Arisa White’s sweet (re)visioning, women seemingly make their own gardens and nurture their own knowledges—acknowledging their yearning for blossoms, their hunger for fruit.
Lee Ann Roripaugh is the author of four volumes of poetry: Dandarians (Milkweed, Editions, 2014), On the Cusp of a Dangerous Year (Southern Illinois University Press, 2009), Year of the Snake (Southern Illinois University Press, 2004), and Beyond Heart Mountain (Penguin, 1999). She was named winner of the Association of Asian American Studies Book Award in Poetry/Prose for 2004, and a 1998 winner of the National Poetry Series. She is a Professor of English at the University of South Dakota, where she is Director of Creative Writing and Editor-in-Chief of South Dakota Review. Roripaugh currently serves as South Dakota Poet Laureate.