I’ve sort of given up on pithy titles for my posts, can you tell? After a gnarly couple of posts on the blog (with some incredible discussion in the comments – do read them! And thank you for joining in with such honesty and with such open hearts…) I felt like today would be a perfect day for four beautiful poems on mothering and womanhood. They are penned by the brilliant poet Cathy Bryant in her new book Look At All the Women. There are poems on love to make you fall in love again, funny ones (Wonder Woman hitting menopause made me laugh out loud) and stirring, political ones (she takes on the Bedroom Tax and climate change in one chapter.) I was always going to be drawn to the poetry on breastfeeding though, eh?
She feeds her baby
and it is the first loving touch
she has ever felt
in her bruised and battered life.
She strengthens and nourishes
her little one,
and introduces him to love and trust
and he does the same for her.
He thrives, and so does she,
for the first time;
for the first time, and forever.
Hard to believe now
that we are such separate beings —
you a great strapping
toddler of three, all-knowing,
I a hopeful extemporising
Thankfully, when you were born
and we parted for the first time,
we kept that close touch.
Feeding fed us both
with love and care
and slowly, only when ready,
you drew away to other
sources of nourishment.
But the everyday miracle
is still there in my memory
of the closeness between us
and of us and in us
and the sweetest, most gentle
bonds are unbreakable.
Child and the Future
Little one, your hurts, though deep, are fleeting.
You always hope for better, tomorrow.
Not like me, too knowing, slug heart beating
while yours pounds swiftly in joy or sorrow.
As the doors of dreams slam finally shut
and knee grazes become heart’s dragging wounds,
one copes with haircut, pay cut, paper cut;
music no longer magic, just nice sounds.
It’s not all bad. You keep some illusions.
The drawn-out years become flashing seasons.
You can smile at popular delusions
and settle with your comfortable reasons.
Yet, child of mine, keep hope for better things.
Innocence should shape what the future brings.
Look At All The Women
Look at that woman breastfeeding in public!
I think it’s absolutely disgusting
the way people give her a hard time.
Look at that lass in a minidress!
Whore! Slag! Bitch! Slut!
are just some of the things she’ll be called
by prejudiced strangers.
Look at that grandmother!
A lot of support is needed
from her for all her friends and relatives,
but she still finds time to lead a vibrant, balanced life.
Look at that campaigner!
She should get to the kitchen,
have a glass of wine and put her feet up,
later on, after standing up for us all.
Look at that woman writer!
It’ll be all flowers, dresses and chocolates
at her many literary award ceremonies.
Look at that sister!
She’s arguing with her siblings again
which, done with affection and a willingness
to compromise, is a really useful life skill.
Look at that stay-at-home mother!
She doesn’t work, of course
apart from 24 hours a day, seven days a week
doing one of the most important jobs there is.
Look at that woman scientist!
She’s outside her natural environment
analysing soil samples from the planet Mars.
Look at me!
Ill and unable to work again
but still making people laugh, and still giving
the best hugs in Manchester.
Look at that cleaner!
The lowest of the low
will sneer at her, as she makes our lives pleasanter
for a pittance.
Look at that daughter!
that she still has so much sexism to face.
Look at that lesbian!
You can tell what she needs
— equality, and recognition of
her voice that enriches us all.
Look at that schoolgirl!
They shouldn’t be educated
differently from boys.
Look at all the women!
What a waste of time
life would be without them.
The publishers, Mother’s Milk Books, would like to send a paperback version of Look At All The Women to a reader somewhere in the world. Simply leave a comment to be entered. I’ll draw the winner of the giveaway at random at 9pm June 9th. I’ll redraw two days later if I don’t get a response to my email.