The Giving Take

A poem about breastfeeding.

Five days ago, I gave birth. Great intimacy follows the birth of a baby. Much time is spent establishing a bond of closeness and breastfeeding regularity. The bodies of mother and child must find a new synchronization.

This poem – the first I’ve written since welcoming my new son into the world – is about that physical, emotional, and instinctual effort.

The Giving Take
Bessie, Bossie, Bonnie Blue,
Fussy, Flossie, Fannie Sue,
I see you through the doily leaves
along your mossy clean-picked path
up around the hill to home.
See me here?
I walk below
beside the road
with baby wrapped against my chest
so taut, my breasts,
impacted from the milk
his drowsy mouth neglects.
Barnyard-bound, you low and file,
udders swinging overfull.
I am going that way, too,
to see your farmer’s wife,
the closest nurse
and kindly mother hand
who may offer her advice.
I see your utters clear from here,
freckle-specked from last night’s rain
pinkly tender glossy fresh
mud-pocked from your stamping field,
where wet-petaled kissing pasture flowers
tease and tickle memories of calves
and make you dumb with longing.
You’ll beat me rounding high up there,
and by the time I reach the gate
your morning march will beckon them
into their clean-kept yard
and they will take my presence
I hope,
and help me not to ask for help.
Fussy, I watch you stop to nip at buds
and dutchmen’s breeches in the trim
and Bossie butts you as she ought –
     move, move on
     sweet sleep-warm friends,
     our farmer father keeper love
     is booting up to milk us clean –
you listen to your older sister now.
She walks in back not because
you know the way back better but
to keep you true to line.
I hear your cello-talk,
rich and to yourselves,
stirring interest from baby now
to wake and take a nipping sip
between my undone buttons
and though I wince
I wince with gratitude
in my skin
hot to the touch
and pulsing thin,
that this resolves itself by way
of precious open baby mouth
and sudden suckles
to now commence.
The slightest nuzzle stirs
within these tight-topped breasts
desire for the giving take
you, too, body habit-instinct seek
within your cat-thronged barn,
the selfish suction pull relief
taking what must be given.
I know you now
you poor dear cows,
for now I know myself –
I falter-waver in the road,
halt midstride, and must decide
to turn around or go –
for with a latch
the urgent urge compressing me
proceeds along its inner paths
with centrifugal pull,
oh, please,
and works into my baby’s mouth.
Bessie, Bossie, Bonnie Blue,
Fussy, Flossie, Fannie Sue,
rounding down now out of sight,
see me here? But no.
You go on lowing,
absorbed in barn-bound thought,
distressed without a language for it.
I hear you go
sound-lost into the hillside pour,
last night’s rain still marbling round,
trickling, rolling, letting down
inside the porous limestone maze
to spill, artesian, out at last
a million milky mountain pearls
in giving, endless spray.

This poem will be among a future collection of poems. If you enjoyed it, please consider supporting my writing by purchasing one of my new collections in paperback or Kindle format. You can find them all on my Amazon author page.

Thank you, always, for reading.