Gwendolyn Brooks was the first African American to win the Pulitzer Prize in poetry. I first began reading her poetry during a trying time in my life when I was depressed and even suicidal. I had to make a difficult decision, and I had a hard time forgiving myself and others around me who were involved. Then one day, I read this poem:
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 children.
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
Gwendolyn was an amazing poet. She wrote about people and places. She wrote about the black experience and made it relevant to everyone. She provided a voice for the black working and middle class. She provided a voice for me.
When you make a mistake and subsequently hate yourself for it, you have a hard time moving forward. Coping with such a painful decision can be especially difficult when the people involved act as if it never happened and expect you to do the same. This poem helped me deal with my pain, guilt, hatred, (a multitude of emotions), through writing. Although I can’t say that I am completely healed, I am in a better place than I was three years ago.
Poetry is so therapeutic. Whatever meaning the poet had in mind when writing a poem, that meaning can change as the poem speaks to different people of different backgrounds. “The Mother” inspired me to write several poems about my experience, even a short story that I am in the midst of reworking. It feels so good to let my heart pour out on the page, and even if I never share my writing on the subject of abortion with anyone else, I am happy that I could release that built up emotion because if I had held onto it for a little while longer, it would have killed me.
Thank you Gwendolyn Brooks, and happy Black History Month.
For more on Gwendolyn Brooks, visit here: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/gwendolyn-brooks