Baby Dreaming

Published on December 11th, 2020 | by Joanna Clapps Herman


Joanna Clapps Herman’s NOA SONGS

Song # 1

The Day Before

There should be the wildest rain, a snow storm in August, or even this perfect summer day—to herold my first granddaughter, daughter to my only child, my son James. Domani mattina, Little bambina, Lady Baby I call her. I’m making chicken cutlets Milanese, arugula l’insalata, con pignole e pecorino al cena. The dressing has cold pressed olive oil, champagne vinegar, a little lime juice. Drinking a prosecco. When I started writing seriously when my son was 15 years old—I thought I’m writing this for my granddaughter. She’ll want to know what I think someday. That’s how I got myself to sit down. That’s how I found my audience. Now she’s coming. Maybe she’ll hate books, maybe she’ll fly to the moon sola sol’. I’m glad I’ll be around for some of it. I call her to us. I wait for her. Sta sera I defy all limits, expectations implications. Sta arrivando. She’s coming, la mia nipote piccinina.

Song # 2

One Week Old

Sulla balconia, nel mia finta italia, there is a lemon tree with six green lemons, pots of the darkest red geraniums, two tiny olive trees in one pot, hibiscus burst with yellows and corals, dried vine branches from my sister’s garden fence tied together with a red string hang on the wall. Sweet breezes blow. I am writing here, using my mother’s pasta board balanced on legs. Two Moroccan trays sit on folding legs: where my friends and I eat and drink and talk through the sunset hours. La mia miracoluccia è nata ma la sua nome no saccio i’!

Song # 3

Noa’s Original Due Date

Noa Zell, mia nipotina, a still point— so completely of this moment, she isn’t the future yet, nor the past. Although all sides wish to sing to her, give to her, wish upon a star with her, for her, good wishes, to be witches to conjure for her, around the fire we’ll all dance, in this moment, in this still not believable moment, after trouble, travails, travels, losses and procedures, a quietly persistent tiny miracoluccia. Only sitting with her on my chest is real. The rest is conjure, hope, a spell. It was too long a hope. Too long a delayed longing.

Noa Song # 4


This creatura, miracoluccia, piccinina, thislittle, especially against my chest, arms splayed, loosened to comfort, in surrender. Each tiny panting breath, a miniscule vibration, rumors crawling up from the primal. Then she opens her eyes she peers up, around, quizzical, as if to say but what is light? who are you? what am I doing here? though we know she can’t string thought yet. Just strings of milk. How can I use my breath, my lips, my tongue, to shape my incomprehension, at her mewings, purrs, her stretching of limbs and shrieking calls to need.  All I have is wonder. 

Noa Song # 5

What of a Baby

Breathing her in, inhale the fact of her, the here of her. Noa. Bringing her air into my lungs with news of her, loading her into me, into my knowing. Her very quiddity. Noa Zell. Someday it will be usual asking, How’s Noa? Now, it’s not ordinary. I’m waiting for that ease. I didn’t know quite what to do my own whatness, while I waited for her to become. But you, Noa, nipotina mia, will have years to fill with all that comes along everyday. I will see you on some of those days. Abundance is plenty for aging days. 

feature photo via Omar Lopez on Unsplash

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About the Author

When I am Italian: Quando sono italiana, (2019) Joanna Clapps Herman’s most recent publication explores the question of whether it’s possible to be Italian if you weren’t born in Italy. Other books include, No Longer and Not Yet (2014), and her memoir, The Anarchist Bastard (2011). She also co-edited two anthologies; Wild Dreams (2008) and Our Roots Are Deep with Passion (2006). She has recently had 18 prose poems accepted for publication, including these five at MUTHA. Her website, a literary, cultural, culinary site is at



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