The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Marilyn McCabe’s “Perpetual Motion”


Guide to Home Birth

What happens in a womb?
Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny:
first you are a lizard, then you are a man.

Some days you think you have wings.
Sometimes you have gills and swim
everywhere through murky water.

Some days you gaze
through thin flesh, blinking
in the diffuse glare. There is doubt.

Once you enter the womb,
there is no going back. No matter
how long it takes, you come out.

Birth is spasmodic. There is
a violent peristalsis. Life comes
in a hiccup, a paroxysm.

In spite of your best intentions there are cries,
tears. For a long time,
you have no teeth.

This selection comes from Marilyn McCabe’s book Perpetual Motion, available from The Word Works. Purchase your copy here!

Marilyn McCabe’s poem “On Hearing the Call to Prayer Over the Marcellus Shale on Easter Morning” was awarded A Room of Her Own Foundation’s Orlando Prize, fall 2012, and appeared in the Los Angeles Review. Her book of poetry Perpetual Motion was published by The Word Works in 2012 as the winner of the Hilary Tham Capitol Collection contest (available from Small Press Distribution, Her work has appeared in literary magazines such as Nimrod, Valparaiso Poetry Review, and Painted Bride Quarterly, French translations and songs on Numero Cinq, and a video-poem on The Continental Review.  She blogs about writing and reading at

Marika von Zellen has a BA in English and Creative Writing from Cornell College (no, not the one in Ithaca). She’s had poetry and fiction published in Open Field, Temporary Infinity, The Grin City Monthly, and the anthology Rock & Roll Saved My Soul. As an Editorial Assistant for Sundress, she’s copy-edited the book Picture Dictionary (2014); as a freelance editor she copy-edited the photography book Face It (2013). In the summer of 2012, she attended the Grin City Collective Artist Residency in Iowa. Besides writing, she enjoys theoretical physics, playing piano, ghost-hunting, climbing trees, and drinking good Czech beer. She’s also a scholar of Lewis Carroll.


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