Latching | Kelly Norman Ellis
It was not like the pictures in the pregnancy books. the ones where the mother, usually white, wears a lace night gown, sits in her rocking chair, her hair in waves down her face, her baby coveted to her breast. The baby’s head is all we see and the slightly raised mound from her chest. No nipple or areola. She is an angel, the baby is her angel. Everything is arranged in gauzy perfect angel light. There was no baby who could not latch. No brown mother, her nipples bloody and cracked. No hormones coming down after the pumping machine takes her milk. This mother sweaty and tearful is no angel. Her locs piled on her head like she’s headed to a field to chop cotton or cane. This mother wears a college t-shirt slightly stained with baby spit up. She cries because she is not the woman in the pregnancy book. She watches the father feed the baby from a bottle. She loves him but she cries because she wants the baby to drink from her. She decides to kill the woman in the pregnancy book with her gauzy dumb angel light. She throws the book away. And one night when the father warms the midnight bottle the tearful brown mother tries again. she decides to lay her body down and pile pillows in the bed nest the hungry baby against her breast. Her breast is all her baby will see or smell. The latching is not easy. It hurts but the baby is hungry. And milk comes, seeps from the corner of her mouth. The mother is happy but too exhausted to smile and thinks before sleep carries her this is what should be in the pregnancy books the sweaty sleepy mother curled into her child. Whole breast exposed.
Kelly Norman Ellis is an associate professor of English and director of the MFA in Creative Writing Program at Chicago State University. She is the author of Tougaloo Blues and co-editor of Spaces Between Us: Poetry, Prose and Art on AIDS/HIV, both from Third World Press. Her work has appeared in Crab Orchard Review, Sou’Wester, PMS (Poem, Memoir, Story), Tidal Basin Review, Calyx, and The Ringing Ear. In 2010 Essence Magazine voted her one of their forty favorite poets. She is a Cave Canem Poetry Fellow and founding member of the Affrilachian Poets.
Raising Mothers is a free online literary magazine for BIWOC and non-binary parents of color. As little as $1 a month goes a long way towards supporting our editorial staff and contributors while keeping us ad-free. Become a patron today!