Rituals and Spells so Nothing Heinous Happens: Double Check the Baby Monitor (or Postpartum OCD and Me)

Elizabeth A.I. Powell

Baby in the microwave. Baby off the terrace. Baby stolen by terrorists. How many babies have I run over in the last twenty minutes. Baby in the microwave. Baby off the terrace. I have been knocked up and knocked out. I am too young to know what to do. My new husband, old enough to be my father, a man who clearly doesn't like me, doesn't talk. I speak the language of baby monitor. Everything is organic, not tested on animals because we are in Vermont. Sing! Sing: Home on the Range! War blares on the T.V. just in time for dinner. Joy of Cooking casserole. Silver Palate cookbook salad. Vermont town tap water tastes like the apocalypse. My mouth has a chunk of electricity stuck in the back of it. I hear the end of the world in the baby monitor. I dream the lottery numbers and wake to forget them. I want to be rocked. I rock the baby. As long as I watch Wheel of Fortune the world remains calm. I cross my fingers and wear a cross. Baby in the microwave. Baby off the terrace. Baby stolen by terrorists. Baby made into Ice Cream by Ben and Jerry. When will you be home from the office? I ask in English, translated from Baby Monitor to my new husband who doesn't like me. The question means I am scared to be myself with the baby and the Baby Monitor. I have been knock up and knocked down. Everything is organic and gluten free and not tested on animals because it is Vermont. Prozac is new. I won't touch it. Where has Wheel of Fortune gone? The spinning wheel of  chance? I will be okay. Maybe. Baby on the roof of the train station. Maybe. Okay. Baby. A war in the desert blares on the T.V. just in time for dinner. Sing!

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Elizabeth A.I. Powell is the author of three books of poems, most recently Atomizer (LSU Press). Her second book of poems, Willy Loman’s Reckless Daughter: Living Truthfully Under Imaginary Circumstances was a “Books We Love 2016” by The New Yorker. The Boston Globe has called her recent work “wry and fervent” and “awash in synesthesiastic revelation.” Her novel, Concerning the Holy Ghost’s Interpretation of JCrew Catalogues was published in 2019 in the U.K. Recent poems appear or are forthcoming in The New Republic, American Poetry Review, Women’s Review of Books, among others. She is Editor of Green Mountains Review, and Professor of Creative Writing at Northern Vermont University. Find her at www.elizabethaipowell.com

Cover of Pleiades 41.2


Warrensburg, Missouri

University of Central Missouri

Jenny Molberg
Erin Adair-Hodges
Phong Nguyen

Pleiades is a literary biannual featuring poetry, fiction, essays, and reviews by authors from around the world. Past contributors include winners of the Nobel, Ruth Lilly, Pulitzer, Bollingen, Prix de la Liberté, and Neustadt Prizes, recipients of Guggenheim, Whiting, National Book Critics Circle and National Book Awards, and many writers seeing their work in print for the first time. The Pleiades Book Review (PBR) is a literary supplement to the magazine that features both essay reviews and shorter reviews of books released primarily by independent publishers.

Pleiades Press also publishes a book a year through the Unsung Masters Series, each volume of which focuses on an important writer who has been unjustly neglected.

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