Monday, June 16, 2014

My Mother Told Us Not To Have Children



MY MOTHER TOLD US NOT TO HAVE CHILDREN
by Rebecca Gayle Howell 

She’d say, Never have a child you don’t want.
Then she’d say, Of course, I wanted you

once you were here. She’s not cruel. Just practical.
Like a kitchen knife. Still, the blade. And care.

When she washed my hair, it hurt; her nails
rooting my thick curls, the water rushing hard.

It felt like drowning, her tenderness.
As a girl, she’d been the last

of ten to take a bath, which meant she sat
in dirty water alone; her mother in the yard

bloodletting a chicken; her brothers and sisters
crickets eating the back forty, gone.

Is gentleness a resource of the privileged?

In this respect, my people were poor.
We fought to eat and fought each other because

we were tired from fighting. We had no time
to share. Instead our estate was honesty,

which is not tenderness. In that it is
a kind of drowning. But also a kind of air.

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