Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood

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She drinks for the last time
from me
the morning my mother dies.

I can’t get there in time,
to Texas from Mississippi.
I’m at the Delta counter
when my cell phone rings.

The stream
enters the larger body
and I am alluvium,
deposited here
by running mother’s milk,
telling the reservations lady
I’m legitimate now,
officially bereaved
in line with FAA regulations.

We get the special fare,
we pass through security,
I bend to my older child and say,
“Grandma died.”
She gapes briefly--
what are we opening onto?--
then says, “Already?”

Why aren’t any of us ready
after our months of preparation?
Rub your nipples with a towel,
they used to say,
or try to squeeze out some colostrum
before your baby’s even born,
but that does no good.
You are still an engorged beast,
cracked and bloody
for the first two weeks
of your baby’s life.

She refuses to latch on,
insists on sleeping,
nurses stealing in at four a.m.
threatening formula,
but then suddenly,
your granite chest veined
in pain,
it comes together,
her hunger,
your rivers of milk.

I never knew cleavage before.
I knew only the loyal adhering,
not the splitting.
Didn’t understand
the synchronized cell divisions
that got us here.
Unto me,
not from me.

Now the fromness
sucks the life out of my chest.
We cleave to stay,
and go.

Donna Levine Gershon’s poems have appeared online in storySouth and qarrtsiluni, and in Kakalak: Anthology of Carolina Poets. She lives in Oxford, Mississippi, with her husband and their two daughters.

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This is a great poem. Donna Levine touches fathers with her writing, too.
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