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Saturday, November 12, 2011

Poem: A mother's breasts

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A mother's breasts


My body in the tub, candlelit,
doughy breasts shining, and
because of the baby to come
from my daughter’s body,
in this dream-light of a crone
everything is mother and baby
again, and my breasts cairns
to the memory of my children,
my daughter first, who swam to me
with her thrashing arms, and landed
a starfish hand on one white beach dune,
locked her shell-bud-mouth onto the biscuit
nipple, the soft pebble of her nose
pressed into shelter, the nipple
her doorknob into the hut—
to survive, to awaken, to trust,
to learn before the intolerable comes
with this quivering tongue, this pause
of eyes, this mouth petalled
into smile, the blue milk pooled
in the upturned keyholes at her mouth’s
curls, that this is the beginning
of life. To be kneaded
by the cupped tongue,
her eyes closed now. To be enough.
To be the bread of life.





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53 comments:

Cait O'Connor said...

Amazing poem, so sensual and memory-inducing.

Vagabonde said...

Lovely poem Ruth. Actually when I said goodbye to my daughter today she was breastfeeding the 4 month old baby boy. We had a great time at the engagement party of my son-in-law’s brothers – such good curries – some a bit spicy – and the ladies wore lovely saris.

About my post of last week you asked who could have been the John of John’s Mountain in N. Georgia. Well originally this land was Cherokee land with Indian names but settlers changed the names. An early settler in the area was John Rogers (1774-1851) and he married Sarah Cordery who was a half-blood Cherokee – just a supposition on my part.

I enjoyed looking at your space and books. You have lovely furniture and I would love to read in that big red armchair. Here I could not show our books – too many. I told my husband that we do not have a house, but we have books (in the thousands) surrounded by some walls and a little furniture – I had started a catalog for the books but it was on our Mackintosh computer so I need to redo it. On top of that I get books from the Library…. right now I am reading Steve Jobs’ bio that I bought as well as My War by Andy Rooney (from the Library) and an assorted lots of other books…

Margaret said...

Oh Ruth... I honestly felt myself "letting" down. And I had to run and kiss and squeeze my almost 4 year old "baby". This is a stunningly precious poem.

hedgewitch said...

This is lovely, with a sense of life and deep purpose. I faintly grasp the echo of a wonder, and that it's wonderful this experience exists; though it was never mine, its beauty shines out a should be, a vision of how life might be right. Beautiful.

Heather said...

Lovely poem, Ruth. So sensuous. Each image is exactly right. My mother, who is 10-15 years older than you, was not allowed to breastfeed her babies. She had us in the late 60s-early 70s. She is a type 1 diabetic and at the time (not sure if that is the case now, or even really was then) her doctor told her she couldn't breastfeed due to the insulin she takes each day, for fear it would affect the milk. It is one of the great regrets of her life. She wanted to breastfeed her babies. Further, she's convinced that the autoimmune problems we have, like my brother's Crohn's Disease, could have been reduced by the the benefits of breastfeeding us as infants.

Pat said...

So moving and beautiful. Brought tears to my eyes.

Jeanie said...

Oh, Ruth, what a special time you and Lesley are experiencing. I hope one day Kevin and Miss Molly will become a family and I can experience close to the same, though it will never be quite so, given that I've never given birth. What a circle of life you are experiencing right now! Lovely poem.

Grandmother said...

I love this poem in praise of my favorite life role- breast feeding. Biscuit nipple, cupped tongue- how exquisite. This is the beginning of life, the bread of life. A beautiful poem about this singularly gorgeous experience. To recommend to Lesley- my daughter, a doula, loves "Birthing From Within."

Marcie said...

This is so beautiful..reminding me of my own babies at my breast. Will look forward to becoming a grandmother - someday..:-)! Lucky you!

George said...

Beautiful and life-affirming, Ruth. As always, I admire your ability and willingness to write about whatever touches your heart and soul. There is never any hedging in your poetry, never any fear, never any withholding of a crucial feeling. You always shine a light on what it means to be human.

Barb said...

Ode to all Mothers who cherish and watch and dream as they nourish both their own and their child's body and soul. How wonderful to share this with your daughter, Ruth.

Mary Ellen said...

I loved this poem - it brings back vivid memories.

Peter said...

To be a mother is definitely something special. So well expressed here that even - just as a father - the impression is so strongly felt!

ds said...

You bring back the ache, and the wonder, that incredible trust-filled bond, and I sense Demeter here as well, the mother Goddess. Stunning, Ruth. Such marvelous sensual language. Just stunning!
Thank you for this one.

missing moments said...

such lovely words of motherhood

amy@ Souldipper said...

So this is how it feels...I've never even been pregnant so this is an unprecedented insight.

I'm grateful my mother breastfed us - a family of healthy people. However, none of us were impressed when mother decided we needed goat's milk to stay healthy. Especially when we learned we had to milk the ornery creatures.

Ginnie said...

All of us who have experienced this "ritual" respond with knowing, dear sister!

The Solitary Walker said...

Oh, this is so beautiful, Ruth. I thank you for it.

Ruth said...

Thanks, Cait, for such kind words. And I'm glad you have memories like this too.

Ruth said...

Dear Vagabonde, thank you for those images of an exotic party, and your daughter breastfeeding your grandson, which strikes me as the most lush and exotic image of all, yet profoundly simple too.

Thank you for your speculations on who "John" of John's Mountain is. And as for books, I had you in mind several times during that post, thinking of your thousands of books. Just incredible!

And won't we miss Andy Rooney?

Thank you for your kind and thoughtful comment!

Ruth said...

Margaret, oh thank you for that active and lovingly precious response!

Ruth said...

Hedge, thank you, my friend. I have an ache for everyone to feel this bliss, men too, and somehow I think there are times we are all mothers, together.

Ruth said...

Thank you so much, Heather. I love your mom. I ache for and with her. We can't help but wonder about the truth of what she was told, given how much has changed in practice of other things. Like premie babies who shouldn't be held (my sister Ginnie/Boots), for fear of damaging them somehow. Then their survival rate blossomed when they were held and cuddled. I am gratified to learn how infant care is trending toward the "primitive" and organic practices from the ages, away from the books of Dr. Spock and the like. As Lesley shared with me recently from the blog "Peaceful Parenting," an African mentor told her new-mother friend: Don't read books, read your baby.

But of course insulin in the blood could be a very different thing. Bless your mother and her tender heart. xoxox

Stratoz said...

in Google reader the poem was a thin line one word wide. The photo had taken me to where the poem ended

Ruth said...

Pat, thank you for reading and feeling, very much.

Ruth said...

Jeanie, thank you for your desire to share this. May you have many ecstasies, shared and solitary.

Ruth said...

Mary, I appreciate your deep connection with breastfeeding, and that you felt it reading my poem. Thank you for the recommendation to "Birthing from Within" which sounds right up our alley! I have sent a link to Lesley and Brian. I'll look into the site too.

Ruth said...

Marcie, I wish grandmotherhood to you too. It's motherhood X one hundred = bliss.

Ruth said...

Thanks so much, George. I have pondered what you said, appreciating it a lot. It is true that I am free of fear much of the time. In this instance, I felt an ocean of peace and joy, and I wanted to express it. But it's tricky, this topic of a woman's anatomy, given our cultural iconography. I needed to put it into words, and I'm grateful you felt it as you did.

Ruth said...

Barb, as another mother said to me after reading this poem, one who was unable to nurse her baby successfully for as long as she wanted, the feeling of maternity, of being enough, is something we can all feel (men included), if we are fortunate and aware.

Ruth said...

Thanks, Mary Ellen, I'm happy for that!

Brendan said...

These grandmother-to-be reflections are a series of highest magnitude, Ruth. What is it about the imaginal process of connecting with a daughter's pregnancy that reawakens so much memory and translates into such fine poetry. The images here are archly maternal, from the warm soak of the tub to the rejuvenation of the breasts to feed a daughter who is now preparing to pass that manna on. 'Tis perfect, Ruth. - Brendan

Ruth said...

Peter, thank you for your sensitive father-ness, and feeling this with me.

Ruth said...

ds, thank you so very much. Demeter is all around, as is Persephone. Do you know? Yesterday at Lesley's second baby shower, the salad was chock full of pomegranate seeds!

Ruth said...

Reena, thank you for reading!

Ruth said...

Amy, I love your comment. You remind me of tales my siblings told me of having to drink goat's milk because my father's parishioner brought it to the house. I don't think they ever had to milk them though! I think it would take some work to feel ecstasy in that udder-feeding experience, but it might be possible. :-)

Ruth said...

Boots, you were there for and with me in these beginnings. I loved it.

Ruth said...

Robert, thank you very much for your response, in its fullness.

Ruth said...

Stratoz, it's a strange thing. When I format poems in the editor, I use the " tool and indent them until they line up as I like under the photo. In Google reader they turn into those stick thin columns. So thank you for following the bread of life to read in its fuller format.

Ruth said...

Brendan, I so appreciate your embrace of my grandmaternal poems. I begin to feel that all my life has led to this bliss. I hope I can translate this feeling into words as the days go on. I'll keep trying, so thanks a lot for the encouragement, which really does inspire me.

Louise Gallagher said...

Ruth my friend, it is serendipity at work that you should write of a mother's breasts as I begin a project about women's breasts.

Serendipity and timely as I give birth to an idea on how to celebrate femininity through stories of our breasts...

I'd love to tell you more!

Louise Gallagher said...

PS -- your poem is stunningly beautiful -- like you.

elizabeth said...

Dear Ruth

A lovely magic poem about the magic of breastfeeding!
Yes, a bond beyond bond with our little ones.....and their little ones too.....
don't know if there are many breast feeding poems out there
my daughter in law is wonderfully home-birth and wholistic

gosh, I'd be sad if she wasn't.

Thaks again for super duper poem.

Oliag said...

What a wonderful, bonding time in life you have so perfectly and beautifully brought to words. I plan on sharing this poem with both my daughters...

This really brought me right back to those days of holding my babies...when I was their bread of life.

Lesley Anne said...

such a special poem for such a special time in our lives. i think so much about breastfeeding, i think it is one of the things i am looking forward to most about motherhood.

erin said...

To be enough. To be the bread of life.

jesus, ruth, it travels up and down my arms. whoa. whoa. truly? i never had a moment like this. not fully like this. unfortunately neither of my children took to breast. what an absolutely divine moment (moments, momentS!) you have had!

your poem wrecks me, not just for this, but for everything, for how we come and for what happens to us after.

i just wrote to james the other day about the notion of being born clean and how it seems afterward we become dirty with what we learn (or unlearn - it is so complicated) and after this, only through conciousness, it is our life's work to try to become clean again. this baby at the breast is the cleanest human being alive. what joy. what perfection.

thank you for such a beautiful poem. (hey, where's your audio? i laugh. i was going to listen.)

xo
erin

Miss Jane said...

The loaf of bread pictured here is so wonderfully connected to a breast. I don't know why I never made that connection. French bakers joke a lot about how bread dough is like a woman--tight when young and looser as it ages (ferments).
I found out only recently that I wasn't breastfed. My sister found a lock of my baby hair along with my "formula" typed out on a card. I felt such resentment. "Nobody breastfed in those days" (late 50s early 60s) my older sister informed me. How much love from my mother did I miss? How much did she miss?
Thank god we've wised up!

Ruth said...

Louise! How remarkable! I must find out more ....

Thank you!

Ruth said...

Oh thank you, Elizabeth! I treasure how holistic my daughter is too! I am amazed actually, at what she understands. Such a blessing!

Ruth said...

Oliag, thank you for everything!

Ruth said...

Sweet Lesley! I hope breastfeeding will go smoothly, but like the Birthing from Within article says, if it doesn't go the way you imagine, do the next best thing, supplement, whatever it takes to nourish your baby. It will be enough! You will be enough.

Ruth said...

Thank you, erin, so much. Yes, I had tremendous moments. And so did you, I think. There is no perfect way, and Lesley and I talk much of this. It is something to want the best most perfect thing, but it just doesn't always go that way. When it doesn't, am I still enough? Is she? Oh yes, with all the love in her heart, and Brian in his heart (he can't breastfeed, is he enough?), they will be enough!

I believe what you say about the just-born baby being clean and whole, and the unlearning begins, and we can't prevent it! We do the best we can, and he will be shaped in ways out of our control. Society is out of control! Yet you and I are learning to witness it from the inside, and try and control ourselves and our responses to it. This is all we can do. And hopefully, in this living, the little ones will see something to help them through it too.

Ruth said...

Oh, MJ! I love what you say! I did not know that French bakers joke about that! Don and I do. :-) Don is the one who makes the bread, isn't it gorgeous? And one day I observed how like a woman's breast the dough is (or did he, I can't remember who observed it first). But the way it changes, and woman changes, we had not made that observation!

Yes, what you experienced I did too. I asked my brother Nelson if he remembered if I was breastfed: he remembered, and no I wasn't. This hurts me too. Dr. Spock (?) and who knows who else were influencing women to see bottles as more sophisticated than suckling their babies. How very peasant it would be to give the baby the very best immunities she can get!