April Poetry Month: the mother

I have a lot of mixed feelings about abortion. I'm Catholic, feminist, parent, pro-science, pro-consent, aware of the serious impact children have on lives, aware of the stigma of pregnancy... on and on. Again mixed feelings and thoughts...

Anyway, when I started collecting poetry books to look at this month this poem, about abortion, was one of the first one's  I read.  I wasn't going to share it because it seemed too...Well too raw.

Except that it has stayed in me. I have thought of this poem several times since I originally read it.  When poems stick with me I pay attention.  Whatever you think of abortion this poem is powerful.

It is by Gwendolyn Brooks whose books and poetry I love more than I love peanut butter.

the mother

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 willl 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
Your luck
And your lives form 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 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

Brooks, Gwendolyn,  Selected Poems.  Perennial Classics, New York. 1999. 4


  1. I just saw the comment about loving poetry more than peanut butter. I don't know how to process that idea.


  2. Hello, I just discovered your blog, through a mutual friend. I, too, have a strange relationship with poetry. If I understand any part of it, I like it. If I don't understand at all, I frown and move sadly onwards. I love this one: the mother by Gwendolyn Brooks. Thank you. for your blog and for your poetry.


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