The Mother by Gwendolyn Brooks
In the Poem “The Mother”, it is of no surprise that the writer Gwendolyn Brooke speaks about the heart quenching topic of abortion. The narrator is an impoverished mother addressing the reader directly. She paints an image of how abortion leads to the absence of a handful of motherly experiences – both emotional and physical.
BY GWENDOLYN BROOKS
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
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
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
Analysis of Brooks’ “The Mother”
In the first stanza, Brooke established how the decisions of abortions “never leaves,” and how the children somehow etched their legacies as what they could’ve become if they had existed. The absence of parenthood where the pure act of acknowledging the child’s presence is what hits the person deeply after going through the process of abortion. The intimate physical and emotional connections that are made in this innocent haven of a parent and child, will be non-existent because of a single decision.
In the second stanza, the writer becomes more expressive in the first person, about the how the abortion had led her to believe that she had killed them and their unheard voices. She pins down every detail of a woman’s sacred experience being a mother and everything that is felt, seen and experienced in the road of motherhood. On the eleventh line of the stanza, she mentions, as though repenting her decision of abortion, that even though her decision seemed well-thought out and planned, it was still not well-thought enough because she had not known what it would take away from her.
She proceeds saying that the decision once made and executed cannot be turned back, even though the “crime” was not hers to begin with, which may suggest that the writer may have written this from a perspective of a woman in an abusive relationship or a prostitute, and that there’s no point crying over this since the deed is already done and the child is long gone. The materialization of the child in her womb made her suffering of the loss even more solid.
In the end, it is evident that even in the act of abortion, she had wanted to mother a child, she had wanted to mother all of her children who could not see the light of day. She had loved all of them equally, even though she had to let them go.