Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
Two Poems

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I couldn't give you my uterus
for more than eight months,
so I wanted to make sure I could
at least give you milk.
Only one breast swelled and filled,
so my friends said let it be, let it
go. But I timed myself, pumped milk
every four hours, even at night,
as if you were there, waking me, as if
you weren't in a hospital incubator.
The noise of the pump shattered
the night silence, its rhythm
like a heartbeat—clenching, releasing.
I placed the liquid in freezer bags,
wrote dates on them. The nurses were shocked
that so much milk could come out
of one breast. I thought it was darker
than I expected, and denser.
When we brought you home, swaddled and tiny,
my family finally dared to laugh
at me, walking around with one breast
bigger than the other. I told them I liked
the fullness of it, and that love
is always asymmetrical.


I'm Doing Something

She's talking to herself
in her pink pajamas
on the balcony, digging
through the concrete floor
to find treasures, repeating words
like wait and look.

She's counting to herself,
the highest number
is 36, right after 10,
and she's ready
to fly, shouts Go!
runs off on her imaginary
carriage, helicopter, chicken-car.

She's naming to herself,
as she gathers
shoes, bicycle, broom, chair, scooter,
into one corner of the balcony.
She lifts a sand bag, calls it
bag of corn, declares, There aren't
too many mommies in the whole land.

She's singing to herself,
inventing lyrics,
when she realizes I'm looking.
She smiles, shrugs;
I'm doing something, she whispers,
I'm doing something.

Don't stop, I tell her,
as I scribble
a note on my new post-its
with little colored clocks
and the words tick tock
printed on their corners.
Don't stop.
I say it again, write it down,
Don't stop.

Zeina Hashem Beck is a Lebanese poet whose first poetry collection, titled To Live in Autumn, won the 2013 Backwaters Prize, judged by poet Lola Haskins, was a runner-up for the Julie Suk Award, and was included on Split This Rock’s list of recommended poetry books for 2014. She’s been nominated for two Pushcart Prizes, and her work has appeared in Ploughshares, Poetry Northwest, Nimrod, Tampa Review, Rattle, The Common, Magma, and Mslexia, among others. She lives with her husband and two daughters in Dubai, where she regularly performs her poetry and runs PUNCH, a poetry and open mic collective. You can follow her on Twitter (@zeinabeck) or Facebook (

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