He Feeds Her

He loves his babies. Always has. His hands perfect for holding small heads. His long flat chest a place to rest and hear the thump-tha- thump just like it was in mommy’s tummy.

I hated breastfeeding. Never enough milk. What did come was so often vomited back onto those bags I lugged heavily on my frame. She’d scream with acid pain and empty belly.

He’d soothe her patiently.  Rocking, and shushing and swaying. Cooing, and patting, and humming.  Loving her with every inch of himself.  She’d sleep fitfully. Reluctantly convinced into rest.

Midnight feedings were hazy nightmares. He wanted to help.  But the best milk was in me.

Breast is best. Breast is best.  Breasts are beasts. Breasts are beasts.

After each feeding, I’d wake him, saying, “Take her.  I can’t do this anymore.”  He’d rouse himself. Sweep her up in the darkness. Pour sweet nectar into her ears.

Delirium twisted mother’s milk into mother’s bane.  But the shame, the shame seemed worse than this.  The shame and the failure:

A stay-at-home mom who does not breast feed.

Unspoken damnation whispered into my mind’s eye. “You’re a bad mother. Selfish. Weak. She will suffer forever. It’s all your fault.”

He said, “You don’t have to. It’s OK.  Don’t listen. I love you. You’re good. You’re good.”

No. You’re good. I am bad.

He said, “I want to help. Let me help. Let me feed her. You can rest. You can sleep. No more pumping. No more soreness. Let me help.”

Every day for months, we three danced this way.  And I felt myself pushing away from the child so waited for. Now, so hungry, always so hungry.

And me with nothing left to give.

So I let him help.  Knowing I was bad. She would suffer. He would leave me.  All good things, as they say, would come to an end.

But instead.

When the clock struck 10 I’d be fast asleep. A night-owl, he stayed up for the midnight feed.  And I, the early bird, took the 4 am, happy to be with my girl.

So rested, body mine, no pumping, no resentment.  Just the everyday trials of new parenthood – shared equally by two.

My burden had lifted.  And his was increased? Would his baby love stay so strong in the face of the feeds?

When I asked,  he said, “You don’t understand. You have given me a gift.”

“I hold her in my arms, bottle in hand, and she looks at me.  I see in her eyes something different, something new, something real.”

“‘You feed me.’ she says, without words.”

“I am her father, and I feed her. Don’t you see? We men are not supposed to feed. But I want to feed her. I need to feed her.”

He feeds her. To this day, he feeds her.  And she knows it.

And we are all free.

 

 

 

My Song

This is not  a song for you.

I sing for you all the time.

Praises. Silly phrases.

Anything in rhyme.

 

But this verse has no purpose,

no reason to be.

This is not a lullaby.

I just wrote it for me.

 

This is not a chant for justice.

This is not a call for peace.

No demands, or reprimands.

Tonight nothing has to cease.

 

Tonight I am the only one,

who needs to hear the song.

This is not a chant for justice.

You don’t have to sing a along.

 

This is not a love song.

You know I love you so.

Heart’s desire, lit my fire

so many years ago.

 

Maybe I’l let you hear the tune.

But the words belong to me.

This is not a love song.

And this is not a chant for justice.

Oh and this is not a lullaby.

I just wrote it for me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Queen’s Daughter

Your mother once saved me

from a fearsome beast.

We traveled to new lands,

and laughed in the face of danger.

We marched into battle

on fields of green grass.

She bested champions

with the pounding of her mighty hands.

And when it was time

to celebrate season’s end,

she wore a flowing gown of sky blue

Remember this always

you are the queen’s daughter

Walk tall, ride free, be Queen.

soft, and light, and filled with dreams.

Gender play

Eli with transformer

 

 

“A surprise for me!!!”

Little Brother third birthday

and the first present arrives.

“Cool!  It’s a robot!!”

“Open for me!”

Big sister five lingers nearby.

 

Her two-months-passed birthday

still fresh in her mind.

“Ooh.  A TRANSFORMER!!

Can I play with it too?”

She sits close to her brother, with watchful eyes

 

Eventually,  Almost Three loses interest in his prize.

He says, “I want to cook with Mommy!!”

Runs to the kitchen. Clambers up the stool.

“Bowl please! Want some water please!

Want spoon please! Man spoon!”

 

Alone on the floor now,

Sister works the cast off prize.

She has figured it out.

Put on the wings.

Make him fly.

 

Little Brother wants Man spoon.

I pull out a teaspoon.

“Nooooo!” silly mommy!”

I pull out a tablespoon.

“Noooo.”  He rolls eyes.

 

I pull out a long-handled ladle.

“Yes!! That’s a man spoon.

Raaaaawrrrrr!”

He growls as he stirs .

She sings as robot flies.

 

The next morning

Big Sister’s sighs.

“Mommy, are there any

princess transformers?”

“I don’t think so.” I say.

She is unsatisfied.

 

“I know!

A Cinderella robot…

that transforms…

into a carriage!”

Her idea makes her smile.

 

And that same morning,

Little Brother carries

robot into school.

On his right hip,

gently cradling him,

Just like mommy

used to do.

 

 

 

 

Too soon

Does this dress make me look fat?

(No. It’s too soon for this.)

It poofs out in front.

(But, you’re only five.)

And I want to look pretty.

(Is this my fault? Is this me?)

You’re cheeks are so round.

(That still stings, but just smile.)

And your belly’s so big.

(And so it’s begun.)

And so it’s begun.

And so it’s begun.

Has the damage been done?

No, my work’s just begun.

 

 

A Mother’s Survival Shanty

Swimming lessons are first

to prepare for the worst.

I guess sailing could be useful too.

Some kind of marshal art.

When things fall apart.

Self-defense in a world gone cuckoo.

 

Perhaps building a fire,

or recognizing a liar.

Who knows what will keep them alive?

Building shelter by hand,

coaxing food from the land.

When I’m gone what will help them survive?

 

The world’s begun cooking

and so I am looking

for ways to build skills and plant seeds,

to help my kids weather

well, weather the weather

in the new world we made with our greed.

 

Something About Eli

Eli

 

I want to write something about Eli

quintessential second of two

I want to write something about Eli

but he’d never demand that I do

 

I want to write something about Eli

if his sister would stop all this chatter

I want to write something about Eli

but I’m running around like a Hatter!

 

I want to write something about Eli

he’s deserving of some of my time

I want to write something about Eli

just one sentence, one story, one rhyme

 

I want to write something about Eli

how his smile’s full of mischief and mirth

I want to write something about Eli

maybe tell you the tale of his birth

 

I want to write something about Eli

how it’s so different having a boy

I want to write something about Eli

but I’m too busy tripping over his toys!

 

I want to write something about Eli

the two-year-old young Houdini

I’d like to write  something about Eli

but I’m hearing his, “Carry you me!”

 

I’d like to write something about Eli

but he wants me to run, jump, and play

So I guess that a poem about Eli

will be written on some other day.

 

Stroller Talk

I am pushing the stroller over city sidewalk.

We bumble through discarded cups.

“The earth is our mother.”

Why did I just say that?

“She gives us a place to live, food to eat, water to drink.”

Four year old ears listen to everything.

She chews on my words with her teeth.

She tastes something fishy.

“If the earth is our mother, who is our father?”

Damn! Keep pushing, keep moving, keep talking.

“The Sun! He keeps us warm, he gives us energy. And light!”

I am a genius. It’s all wrapped up in a neat package.

The wheels rattle and I scan for bumps in the concrete to avoid.

She spits it out. It tasted ok, but something in the texture was off.

“I don’t think the earth is our mother.”

I swerve to avoid hitting the tracksuit in front of me.

“It’s not?  What do you think it is?”

When in doubt, turn the question around.

“It’s a planet.”

Shit. She’s good.

“A planet is a planet.”

The wheels continue to rattle in my head.

Thank goodness we’re almost there.

———————————————————————

NaPoWriMo 2013: Day 2

Asha’s Sisters

Felissa was the first of the three. She lived a million miles away  in California. Melissa came later. We will have a playdate with her one day. Jafortu was the last, named after the label  J42 on the back of a plate, no story.

“Felissa is visiting her grandmother!”

“Melissa was mean to me in school.”

“Jafortu likes mac n cheese just like me. ”

The sisters were always nearby but never quite here.For six months, stories of their likes, dislikes, comings and goings, speckled her 4 year old chatter.

Then last week:

“My sister’s are dead.”

“Oh no!.  I am so sorry.  That is sad.”

“It’s OK.  Blankie, Puppy, and Other Asha are my sister’s now.”

A woven blanket. A small stuffed dog. A brown skinned, black haired puppet. Holdable, huggable, here.

THE SISTERS ARE DEAD!

LONG LIVE THE SISTERS!

 

 

 

Skin deep

I am driving the minivan. My four year old daughter is behind me, strapped into her booster seat. A purple balloon rises up from her wrist, a bottle filled with candy in her lap, her eyes still wet from goodbye tears, her voice twittering with excitement, exhaustion, and complete satisfaction.  We are on our way home from her “best friend”s 5th birthday at Pump it up.

A: “Kensington is my best friend mommy!”

Me:  “I know. You told me!”

I love talking to her when she is like this.  This time in the car becomes more special every day, now that I am working full time – now that she spends long days at her suburban pre-school.

A: “Kensington is 5 mommy! I am 4. But she’s my best friend! She’s in my heart.”

I melt when she says these things. What words will her 4 year old brain spin out next?  I ask a question, waiting to be dazzled or amused, to be impressed with her smarts, or chuckle at her silliness.

Me: “Why is she your best friend sweetness?”

A: “Because she has the same skin color as me. Can I have this candy tomorrow?”

My voice catches in my throat.  My brain goes blank.

Me: “Uh huh.”

Should I say something more?  Is it ok that she is choosing best friends based on skin color?  She has moved on to talking about The Wiggles, and something about flying to Mars with her baby doll.  But I am stuck. Skipping like a record.

Of course, I had noticed at the party. Asha and Kensington were the only non White-skinned kids there who were not members of Kensington’s family.  Both of them a golden brown tone, children of mixed parentage. Kensington’s mother African American, her father Latino.  They both played with the other kids of course. They did not band together, or isolate themselves. They did not self-segregate.

This moment is pregnant.  It has meaning for me.  We are moving to Philadelphia, exploring neighborhoods, trying them on for size, one a weekend,  our little family of four, one White, one Brown, two Golden.

Who do we belong with?  Where  do we fit? On a busy street in one neighborhood, I am the only brown skinned person I see the whole afternoon, except for the Parking attendant.  We are strangers to this town but does that mean we should feel strange?

I feel strange when I am the only brown person in the room. It’s no one’s fault. No one has to be doing something wrong. I just feel strange.  I search the room for another brown skinned person. I have done this for as long as I can remember. Then I know I am safe. I am not so strange.

Now, I know my golden-skinned girl child feels something like this too. I thank goodness for my question and her answer. I thank goodness for these moments in the car – these windows, these mirrors. I am certain now, I must find a someplace where we fit. I must find a place we all can be. Perhaps strangers together, but together, never strange.

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