“Motherhood is everything between.” (Julia Kolchinsky Dasbach on Interlude)

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Julia Kolchinsky Dasbach is a contributor to Half Mystic Journal’s sixth issue, interlude. She emigrated from Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine as a Jewish refugee when she was six years old. She holds an MFA in Poetry from the University of Oregon and is a Ph.D. candidate in Comparative Literature at the University of Pennsylvania, where her research focuses on contemporary American poetry about the Holocaust. She has received fellowships from the Bread Loaf and TENT Conferences as well as the Auschwitz Jewish Center. Julia is the author of The Bear Who Ate the Stars (Split Lip Press, 2014) and her recent poems appear in Best New Poets, American Poetry Review, and Nashville Review, among others. Julia is also Editor-in-Chief of Construction Magazine and when not busy chasing her toddler around the playgrounds of Philadelphia, she writes a blog about motherhood.


We asked three of our Issue VI contributors to share with us their personal definitions of interlude: how it is formed, where it has been, what it could be. Here is Julia Kolchinsky Dasbach’s vision of the keystrokes of transitory—the movement in the rest—the inhale before the storm…

Between the body before my son grew inside and what is left after. Between the red-alien newborn gasping for my breast and the piranha mouth closing around it. Between the sleeping baby and the screaming one, the toddler who hugs strangers, saying “I love you” and the one who pulls the kitten’s hair and pushes a little girl and throws his clothes down the stairs. Between the little boy who runs towards me with all of his ferocious, animal love, and the one who runs far away. Motherhood feels like it happens between things, between finite beginnings and endings, to begin and end infinitely. 

There is an anxiety and comfort to this cycle of betweenness. Even the most extreme pain—pushing my son out of me, feeling his teeth bite down on my shoulder, or hearing him say, “Leave me alone, Mama” as he pushes my face away from his—is an interlude. Interlude, from the Latin inter, "between", and ludus, "a play." Not unlike the lyric moment, also a kind of betweenness, a break in the music even as it creates a music of its own.   

I have been thinking about the way motherhood is its own poetics, shaping both the poem’s content and form. The way motherhood is a lyric moment, both finite and infinite. Everything before I had my son still exists, a hazy landscape I recall the way a horizon looks when the sky and water blend to indiscernible mist. And everything after, every single word and breath and poem becoming about him or who I am in relation to him, it’s equally hazy, but an all-consuming haze—that same horizon, swallowed by flaming reds, devouring sea and sky indiscriminately

But I try to pin down that moment, the one when I became a mother, the one between now and everything that came before. Was it deciding we wanted to make another human life? Was it feeling my lover’s body release between my legs? Was it seeing an extra blue line on a piece of man-made white plastic? Was it hearing the sound of a still-forming heart beating louder than my own? Was it the act of giving birth, of feeling my body cleave into two as it remained one? Was it not until the midwife slapped his body onto my stomach and I saw him open his eyes? Did I only become a mother when someone else recognized me as one? When someone named me Mama? Said those words aloud—the melody of Ma Ma Ma, a musical masterpiece and interlude—when the moment before and the moment after blended into betweenness. 

There must have been a moment, a lyric one—finite and infinite—when I went from not being a mother to becoming one. But now, there is only motherhood, the expanded ever-present, lyric, finite and infinite all the same. So I will give up trying to identify when this change occurred and relish in the betweenness of things, indulging in interlude.  


Julia Kolchinsky Dasbach’s poem “Percussion Paternal”, along with twenty other pieces by contributors and three columns by the Half Mystic team, are compiled in Half Mystic Journal’s Issue V: Interlude, a stunning collection of contemporary art, lyrics, and writing dedicated to the celebration of music in all its forms. It is available for preorder now.