Motherhood & Words

This morning I woke slowly, to the sound of birds and wind in the trees. D. and Stella brought me breakfast in bed, one of my favorite things.

I held Stella in my lap as we waited for her new clothes to come out of the drier. A bowl of oranges in her hand, she said, “Feed me, mama.” She is old enough to feed herself, of course, and usually I remind her of this fact, but not this morning. I wrapped her in a sheet and fed her slice after slice of orange. Her hair still snarled with sleep, her eyes so blue, I held my daughter close, wiping juice from her chin. What a wonderful way to wake up on mother’s day.

Here is a poem by Deborah Keenan that I love:

Good Dreams Or Milk

Still impossible to kiss the child,
And not see the child explode.
Charles Baxter, Cantata At Midnight

private retreats and public disorders
are in full view now; after a long season
without new life babies ride inside friends
or burn whole into lives, altering paths we’d been lingering on.

there are mouths to feed. my children’s faces
are private candles i sometimes worship at, the touch of
their skin, the implicit blessing that comes when children
are desired, and children are being born again, while the world
lurches in a fouled orbit, tampering with private pledges
made in the night by new lovers, and with lullabies being sung
all over town:
pony boy, pony boy, won’t you be my pony boy?
sweet and low, sweet and low, winds of western seas.
the hush hush words about mockingbirds,
rings without stain,
soft words before sleep,
the comfort of new skin and old songs.

such privacy by gold light cannot outshine the polished guns,
the accomplished liars, the diplomats flaming at the last gates
in every city, easter won’t stay, palm fronds fade
and children’s new clothes are put away with trembling hands
by lovers who bend to kiss the faces of children,
or to hear the daughter’s voice: oh, i’ve needed you so much
today, weary, as if laying claim to some sin.

and the big world’s chapter and verse drone on,
and children are flying apart
and hands cannot reach
fast enough to stop their small, quiet disintegration.

we are here again, we say to each other,
while the children tangle in sheets,
call out for good dreams or milk,
and we pull the blankets up, hungry for them
to wake up alive.

Originally in The Only Window That Counts, this poem is now in Keenan’s new collection, Willow Room, Green Door: New and Selected Poems. If you haven’t read her, this would be a wonderful book to get. Her writing is so true and alive and accessible.

Okay, I’m off to find a home in the garden for the marigold seedlings Stella gave me. Happy Mother’s Day!

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I have been teaching creative writing for almost twenty years. Reading about other women’s lives and experiences has expanded my world. To be able to walk in someone else’s shoes, whether it’s for a moment or an hour or a few days, is an incredible gift, providing me with insight into the human experience. It takes courage to write your truths, especially if it doesn’t seem as though anyone cares, as though anyone is listening. Let me tell you: your stories matter, I’m listening, and I’m here to help you find the heart of those truths, to get them down on the page, to craft them, and to send them out into the world. Together, we will change the world, one story at a time.


  1. Mardougrrl on May 15, 2007 at 10:58 pm

    *sniff* I cannot WAIT to share these types of moments with my daughter as she grows older. And as always, you capture it all so well.

    Thank you for that, always (and for the poem too).

  2. K on May 16, 2007 at 4:02 pm

    Wonderful poem; I knew about Kennan but had never read her.