Published on April 27th, 2018 | by Elana R.L. Story0
Mama don’t have time for low fat: Poems
For the body of a mother
In the end, I wished for stretch marks to line my body like tattoos, something to mark the difference between the way you were
and the way you’d grown to become.
You spent nine slow months growing. For the first time it was true that I wanted my curves to be rounder,
my edges softer, even my breasts fuller. I knew that this way, you would bring me closer to the baby I had longed to have.
Blue veins grew quickly under my skin, sprawling out over my breasts like a pianist’s hands. At 24 weeks I woke up with a fat stain of milk on my chest. The silent symphony being written inside you swimming its way to the surface.
A deep brown line grew from my pubic bone to just between my breasts,
reaching higher each week
until the time that I felt your toes become lodged just beneath my heart,
plucking at my ribs when I leaned forward.
In the end, which was really a beginning,
I wanted a tattoo over the fading line that had reached up my entire torso, and remained after you were born, a slowly dissolving reminder on my still- soft belly.
the birth left no external mark. the sweat and blood washed off, the sore muscles relaxed.
I wanted something to mark the change as permanent,
a scar to mark the thing that changed the structure of my insides.
The line shrank down, though, reversing the path by which it had appeared. A friend saw it as I sat on the sofa, nursing my baby. She blurted that she hadn’t thought I’d had a C-section.
I hadn’t had a C-section. Instead, I’d planted my hands and knees and toes, hands and knees and forehead firmly on the bottom of the bathtub, and every two minutes, when the contraction was over, floated on my side while the patterns on the bathroom tile told me stories.
I don’t carry a visible scar,
though I did grow the dark red-brown line that forms between the back and buttocks during labor,
a line that crawled up my back one centimeter per centimeter of dilation.
Hannah watched over my shoulder, reporting back to me how far my hips had spread and how high the line had traced up my back. She made a steambath of herbs which was supposed to encourage dilation.
It worked, maybe a little too well. Through the pain,
I went through the pain,
and there I found a gentleness, a calm.
Through the pain, awe.
It was surprising, and sudden somehow,
that you were born.
The thrill of the fact that you moved!
The beauty of your breath,
of your thirst for the world.
as I took that exhale of completion,
you had just begun to inhale.
Mama don’t have time for low fat
Mama don’t have time for playing power games with adult toddlers, for creepy racist rapists, for war mongers. Mama only has time for nail clippings on the counter, for yogurt on the walls, and for the one hundred and twenty-seventh repetition of the pollitos song.
Mama has time for you, love, and for you. Mama has time for hugs and for wiping noses. Mama has time for falling into bed so exhausted she can only hug the pillow.
Mama called on the higher angels, Mama called on the angels named Rachel, Souad and Bracha. She called on the angels named Leslie Feinberg and Meip Geis. Mama called on Shifra and Puah, Moishe and Yosef. Mama called on dreams and on sweetness. She didn’t believe in war games, or toy guns, or any sort of violence but she was tough enough to know better than to roll over to the silent and deadly creeping of empire and of war. She was a fierce bodhisatva, she was a breast that shot milk like acupuncture needles into the hearts of presidents until they were hypnotized and they called on their higher angels to peel away the dark, deep rot inside themselves,
and we all did too, in a moment of great tshuva.
Mama texted her friends cause she don’t have time to call and if she does, someone always grabs the phone with sticky fingers or yells in her ear. Mama loves to talk though. Mama tried praying to the God of the phone but got disconnected, so she tried tarot instead. Mama went to shul but mama don’t have time to study the Torah, so Mama sat in the grass and ate ice cream instead.
Like I said, Mama don’t have time for low fat, she needs creme fraiche or butter, one teaspoonful at a time, when she can. Mama only does 78% cacao milk chocolate and single origin fair trade french press coffee. Mama likes it strong and dark. She likes it just so. She likes it soft and hard and wiggly and squishy and in between. She makes sure to order it ahead because she don’t have time for let’s be spontaneous or go with the flow.
Mama don’t have time for people who want to come over only to gawk at her baby or her body, or to ask where he came from. He looks like you, they say.
Then they stare into her eyes like they think they own something that she doesn’t, like an eye could be a form of currency. They size up her milk spraying tits and examine the size of her butt. Slowly her milk dries up under the hot hunger of their gaze.
They say her son looks like her. Don’t they know that both she and her son and everyone else were born from the bottom of the ocean, from a spark that ignited tiny pearls inside a sac of eggs no bigger than a marble, from lifebreath, from the skin of earth and the breath of air?
it’s true you grew in her
your first cell and every cell after,
you are of her blood, sinews, kidneys.
you grew inside her until you burst and wrangled your way into life.
(i watched in awe, as the soft bones of your skull flexed inward, cone-like
her body squeezing, pushing, splitting to allow your life through.)
i would offer you my pulse, i would give you my breath
only you have your own pulse, and your own breath, a gift
a mortal like me could not give
i offer you my fat, i offer you my heart.
you are not of my blood,
you are of the alchemy that happens when skin meets
skin, when the water, the liquid, the fat and the marrow hum
to the tune of another body
when tears touch another’s skin
i offer you my fat, the delight of my body. we need blood to live
we need fat to be joyful
my muscle lifts you, what i eat is offered to you on the altar of my breasts.
you suck, your eyes hungry for mine
your mouth works until it tires, you ask me for food
sleep, comfort as if i created them.
it’s that alchemy that is the work of love. the alchemy that means i would easily jump in front of traffic, stop a moving train with my limbs
because my body is meant to save your life again and again.
your unflinching protector, even when the time comes that you’ll need no protection
but your own.
one day, when you can eat the fat and marrow you choose, suck on the bones, delight
in round dough, buttery crust and golden loaf,
i’ll still beat quietly in you my love, my cells have made their way into yours
my life moving on, in and through you
ode to breastfeeding as a non-gestational parent
1. that nerve in my neck that buzzes on letdown
the way my nipples pucker out
my body hungry to feed you
2. who knew it would be this fully joyful, this amazing, this superlatively satisfying again? i didn’t expect to fall truly madly deeply in love again but i did.
and because i didn’t expect the milk to sweat from my breasts when i first saw you nursing you gave me that much more satisfaction.
3. ripe round pleasure.
4. guilt at that pleasure.
5. why do you always want to nurse right when i pass by west lake middle school?
does the home of the falcons really need to see this?
6. you always prefer her, my partner, her milk as much yours as your blood
but i relish the drops of me that you do savor; the thick salty colostrum
and the shrieks of watery foremilk.
7. i order drugs from thailand to increase my supply. i take fenugreek, blessed thistle, and moringa.
i eat oatmeal and carrots, i drink liters of water.
8. i spend hours at the pump. we joke about what it says—broccoli, broccoli, my wife says.
pump-ee, pump-ee, i hear sometimes
or i see you, i see you.
9. no more guilt!
10. when you turned two years old old and we started weaning, i went to a sex party
where i sprayed a vivacious sixty-something woman in the face with my milk, her tongue flecking out to catch the drops
as though it was the first rainfall she’d seen.