The Weekly Verse: The Mother by Gwendolyn Brooks
by Gwendolyn Brooks
Abortions will not let you forget.
You remember the children you got that you did not get,
The damp small pulps with a little or with no hair,
The singers and workers that never handled the air.
You will never neglect or beat
Them, or silence or buy with a sweet.
You will never wind up the sucking-thumb
Or scuttle off ghosts that come.
You will never leave them, controlling your luscious sigh,
Return for a snack of them, with gobbling mother-eye.
I have heard in the voices of the wind the voices of my dim killed children.
I have contracted. I have eased
My dim dears at the breasts they could never suck.
I have said, Sweets, if I sinned, if I seized
And your lives from your unfinished reach,
If I stole your births and your names,
Your straight baby tears and your games,
Your stilted or lovely loves, your tumults, your marriages, aches, and your deaths,
If I poisoned the beginnings of your breaths,
Believe that even in my deliberateness I was not deliberate.
Though why should I whine,
Whine that the crime was other than mine?—
Since anyhow you are dead.
Or rather, or instead,
You were never made.
But that too, I am afraid,
Is faulty : oh, what shall I say, how is the truth to be said?
You were born, you had body, you died.
It is just that you never giggled or planned or cried.
Believe me, I loved you all.
Believe me, I knew you, though faintly, and I loved, I loved you
I chose this poem because we’re focusing on women this month, and pregnancy and abortion are so utterly and completely women’s issues. So many women experience pregnancy at some point in their lives, and many of these are unplanned (about half, if I recall the statistic correctly); as a result, many of these women are faced with both a surprise and a decision. The decision made here in this poem (or decisions, I should say) is clear, and I think of this as a difficult, beautiful, wistful letter to the potential children the narrator chose not to bear. It also shows her struggle with how to talk about them — as children she killed, or as children who never were (see the last seven or so lines of the second stanza). For me, this poem is a sucker-punch of real talk about abortion and what the aftermath is like for some women, and in a way it represents a lot of what being a woman entails — beauty, grit, hard decisions, and love.