The Sacredness of the Ordinary

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In Psalms of Unknowing, Heather Lanier finds eloquence and profundity from such unlikely sources as a GBS test, a culture done between 36 and 38 weeks of pregnancy that involves a sample from the vagina and rectum.

A fold in me cringes—aw-easy. Then a swab, then a vial

thin as a cigarette like she's about to smoke the cells of my cervix.

It's tricky business, growing three hundred bones, a pair of eyes that haven't seen

tsunamis on TV or tulips in spring

The poem vividly paints the scene of a midwife appointment while a never-ending cycle of news—war to climate change—plays out on a nearby TV. Is this a world worth entering, mom wonders.

My baby— she's either underfunded, shutting down,

or content, clueless to the tune we wail out here: What if,

what if the worst?

Lanier, Ed '02 (MA), is the author of two award-winning poetry chapbooks along with the memoir Raising a Rare Girl (Penguin Press, 2020), a New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice about parenting a child born with a rare genetic syndrome. With Psalms (Monkfish, September 2023), Lanier offers up a provocative and candid collection of poetry that challenges the patriarchy with an eye on contemporary issues, such as gun violence, our noxious political discourse, household divisions of labor, and parenting in an uncertain world. This powerful work sits squarely with an author who writes at the intersections of spirituality, feminism, and motherhood. You'll marvel at Lanier's language, but the moral takeaways will linger long past a clever turn of phrase.