Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Gwendolyn Brooks, "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 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
Your luck
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
All.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gwendolyn_Brooks
http://poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/15829

The narrator, a woman against abortion, is speaking ironically of why she should feel sorry for an aborted baby ("though why should I whine" L22) when she generally stands in opposition to abortion. The first three quarters describe everything missed after an abortion by the baby (like no birth, no childhood, no crying, no laughing, etc.)in intense feeling. It brings a very dismal mood with words such as "if I poisoned the beginnings of your breath", "you were never made", and "the damp small pulps with little or with no hair". I feel like her mood and tone help in an effort to shun abortion in its entirety because it is "murder", and also because countless details of life are left out and never created. There is also a feeling of remorse for the unborn children in the last two lines, supporting both the narrator's stand against it, and her emotional connection to the topic.

17 comments:

Mr. Malley said...

Mike, I get the feeling that the speaker in this poem has had an abortion. What do you make of that?

Anonymous said...

you are a man and you are also probably white. thus you know nothing about gwendolyn brooks and her reasoning behind this poem.

she is not saying she is against abortion, but that having an abortion is hard for the stated reasons.

Anonymous said...

anonymous: I agree with your reading of the poem, but are you saying that the misreading is obviously because Mike is a man and white? Is the implication that we can only understand a poem which mirrors our racial and gendered experience? This limits the possibility of ever understanding anyone but ourselves--we aren't after all only defined by these categories, but endless categories, each one narrowing and narrowing our scope until we are only ourselves, never able to understand another. The point of literature is that it's a way to break out of this trap.

Jessica said...

Gwendolyn Brooks did have multiple abortions she is not pro life she is simply telling her unborn children that she loved them.

Anonymous said...

Gwendolyn Brooks did have multiple abortions she is not pro life she is simply telling her unborn children that she loved them.

Jessica said...

Gwendolyn Brooks did have multiple abortions she is not pro life she is simply telling her unborn children that she loved them.

Anonymous said...

I very much appreciate that you posted this poem and that is has spoken to you. As someone with personal experience with the subject matter, I carried this poem for months -- maybe years -- I've blocked out many details of that period which, irrespective of time, was long and hard. I would carry it in my wallet and read it often to punish myself for an impossible decision that I still wish I had never had to make.

Although I think the author is very much saying something different from your interpretation, it is unfair for anyone to accuse you of being 'male' or 'white' or anything, based upon your takeaways from this poem. Each of our souls is assigned to the body we get - male or female, black or white and in-between, able or disabled. It is important to look for the common ground and unity between all of us, not to attack someone personally when they have opposing views.

If you are a man, you will never face the decision of ending a human life that is growing inside you…then, if you had done so, to try to find some peace with what you had done for the rest of your own life. Conversely, I will never understand what it is like to be a man, nor the difficulties you, personally, face in your own life. What is most important to me, however, is that you have faced a difficult issue and tried to empathise with someone under different circumstances.

I think this is why poetry speaks to us - in looking at a poem, we see some of what the author is trying to say and some of what we project. We juxtapose us and them and feel less alone - less alienated. We feel as though we are not so bad nor so different from others. Perhaps, this is something in souls which looks for unity, for something in someone else with which we can resonate.

Kind regards,
N.

Madeline said...

reply to comment from November 10, 2008 7:36 PM:

i agree with your interpretation of the poem also, but just because Mike is a man and white doesn't mean that he doesn't understand the poem...he just asked the same thing i asked myself when i first read this poem...i am a woman and white and i understand the poem... thus i don't have to be black to know about Gwendolyn Brooks and her reasoning behind this poem...i understand pefectly :)

Anonymous said...

this is a really interesting reading of the poem. When I studied her work in college I came to realize though, that it's not just about the abortion. In fact, the abortion is secondary. The book in which this was published sets the context for the poem. I think the poem is trying to convey what it's like for a woman, a mother to make a choice when she really feels like she has no choice at all. On another level, the abortion is symbolic, it's a metaphor. I believe that this poem is about the desperation and deprivation that one faces living in poverty.

Anonymous said...

Actually I am currently researching on Gwendolyn Brooks, and she never had an abortion. She is writing about the impoverished Afro-Americans during the time the poem was written. At that time the women rather than having a baby that they knew they didn't have the money to care for would have an abortion. The women although killing the children they were carrying felt they were showing them love by not giving birth to a child that they knew they would not be able to provide for. I personally am against abortion and I am a white female, but I can understand how hard this choice to abort must have been. During those times you didn't get to live off Public Aid. Gwendolyn Brooks is very inspiring.

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Brian said...

N. of July 10, 2009 8:00 AM--

when you say something that good-- sign your name!

Soullyman said...

A critical analysis of this poems clearly shows abortions committed for reasons beyond the control of the women involved. 'believe that even in my deliberateness i was not deliberate'. The speaker contemplates responsibility for the crime bt admits the crime. 'though why should i whine' 'whine that the crime was other than mine?'. However, there is a general feelin of regret of the abortions had and a sense of loss deeply expressed

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Anonymous said...

Wowww. This is like, the most racist comment ever. So you're saying because he's white and male, he's ignorant of important American poetry?? Umm, no.

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