Our Mothers, Our Selves: Writers and Poets Celebrating Motherhood

By J. B. Bernstein; Karen J. Donnelly | Go to book overview

After-Shock

J. B. Bernstein

The five year old girl/child remembers when she was born, remembers when the doctor scooped her out of her mama's slippery, bloody, oozing sac after cutting through layers and layers of muscle, elastic, shiny like a pink balloon, slicing away until her little body rose from all the fluid and popped into the icy cold white air waiting to be protected from her future. She remembers being early, fighting to stay inside, ensconced in warmth and softness like floating in the midst of a cumulus cloud, listening to muffled symphonies. Then her surroundings began to thunder and shove her with the force of Thor, shove her from side to side until her home for eight months slit open and she was snatched and poked and pulled and wiped and dried and wrapped and finally she felt warm again in the glass rectangled manger, snow white clean, warmed by lamps from heaven, the glow seeping through, too bright for her mucous layered eyes.

But the storm wasn't over, as she had thought. It had just begun. Soon, something strange attacked her four pound body and no matter how she tried, she couldn't stop it. She wanted something so badly that it made her want to kill for it. She began to shake and sweat and beat her little hands against the sheets until someone came and eyedropped paregoric on her tongue and she sighed and smiled to herself and finally went to sleep. And the next day it was the same and the next day it was the same and the next day it was the same. For weeks it was the same. Less each day, but still the same. And the girl/baby wanted her mama to stop it. And it finally stopped. And she went home with her mama who tried, really tried to be a good mama, changed her diapers, fed her when she was hungry, rocked her when she cried, but all the time, a voice kept calling her mama: come back, come back to freedom, to never-never land where there is no ache no pain no love no hate no work no give no take no trial no error no think no feel. And her mama couldn't stop the voice, gave into the voice, at first just a little, a few drinks here, a few drinks there, a pill here, a pill there, then a needle here a needle there, and the girl/baby grew into a girl/child while her mama didn't grow at all.

As time went by, the girl/child found out more and more about her

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Our Mothers, Our Selves: Writers and Poets Celebrating Motherhood
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Copyright Acknowledgments v
  • Contents ix
  • Introduction xiii
  • Dedication xv
  • I -- Beyond Self 1
  • The Moment the Two Worlds Meet 3
  • From a Street in Bronzeville 4
  • How to Live 6
  • Miscarriage 14
  • With Child 16
  • Lines For One As Yet Unnamed 19
  • Fist First 20
  • The Bearing Woman 23
  • Infant Burial Room, Wupatki 28
  • Even after Death, I Will Not Forget how a Newborn Huffs and Puffs when Sitting Slumped Over 30
  • Not a Trace 33
  • Cambodia 35
  • Morning Song 39
  • Stumbling into Motherhood: A Few Words About Bonding & Mother-Women 40
  • Ironing 43
  • On the Inside 44
  • After Reading Mickey the Night Kitchen for the Third Time Before Bed 50
  • Crack in the World 51
  • What to Tell the Kids 55
  • But how? 57
  • Yes, It is Possible to Love a Child Who Doesn't Have Your Eyes 58
  • Motherless 60
  • Brothers and Sons 61
  • Loving Across State Lines 64
  • The Glass Half Empty 67
  • Awaiting the Arrival of the Witch 69
  • Ghost Child 72
  • Learning the Firebird Suite 74
  • That's My Girl 75
  • The Blessing 76
  • Cornucopia 79
  • II -- Beyond Reflection 81
  • I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (Excerpt) 83
  • Reasons. . . 87
  • The Woman Warrior 88
  • Nursing the Adopted Child: A Different Pace of Bonding 92
  • Sitting With My Mother and Father 96
  • Bending Over Roses at Twilight 98
  • Mercy Killing 99
  • Women and Other Mothers 100
  • Spring of '42 106
  • The Body Market 107
  • Foreword from The Measure of Our Success 109
  • Mother's Voice 112
  • Autumn Roses 113
  • Passing Away 115
  • Breast Fed 118
  • The Annuity 119
  • What She Left Me 122
  • Rubberband Dances 133
  • Shooters 135
  • Writing My Mother's Life 136
  • Feminism, Art, and My Mother Sylvia 140
  • Going Deeper into the Album 147
  • On Learning of the Death of My Great-Grandmother in Childbirth at Age 18 148
  • Making the Wine 151
  • Dead Baby Speaks 157
  • 50 Mothers of a Renowned Wolf 162
  • Beautiful Bellies 165
  • III -- Beyond the Whole 167
  • Mother and Daughter, A Dynamic Duo Indeed 169
  • Heat 174
  • Two Poems 177
  • The Scorpion Wore Pink Shoes 178
  • Mommy Wars 186
  • Real Enough 188
  • The Child Has Seen the Wind 190
  • Tito Fuentes, Topps #177, 1967 191
  • Life Ain't Never Settled 192
  • Conception 198
  • Giving Birth 199
  • Mother's Milk: A Dairy Tale 211
  • The Woman With the Wild-Grown Hair Keeps Her Vigil 213
  • Like Her Uterus Ripped Out 215
  • The Fault 219
  • Small Things 221
  • The Christmas Ritual 226
  • From 7 Folk Songs with Refrains 227
  • Black Bear Eating Salmon 229
  • Child Has No Say 231
  • After-Shock 233
  • Breast Feeding 237
  • The Last Wild Horses in Tennessee 238
  • The Envelope 240
  • About the Editors and Contributors 241
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