Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2018  Vol. 17 No. 1
an online journal of literature and the arts
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Ordinary Pleasure

The nursing baby thumps my breast above the nipple,
demanding the milk flow faster.
He curls his hand into my hair and yanks,

then finally slows and sleeps, his eyelids closing
like a precious doll I had in childhood, his eyelashes
so long and blond against his cheeks.

This is the perfect moment of my life.
The baby sleeps against my belly, where he first
fed and grew and kicked,

like the dream of a better, sweeter self.
In Michigan, a mother fills her toddler with Benadryl
and when she’s sleeping soundly

holds a pillow to her face and presses down
until the girl stops breathing. Then the mother swallows pills
and lays down in a graveyard to die

but wakes instead, stricken and childless. In Oregon,
a mother tosses her six-year-old son from a bridge
and his bones splinter when they hit the river.

In Los Angeles, two days after Thanksgiving, two girls find a day-old baby
buried under chipped asphalt, wailing.
He’s wrapped in a hospital blanket

and the mother who left him must still have been bleeding,
leaking milk. Women’s violence is like this,
intimate and bodily. The woman who smothers

her daughter must also have dressed the girl in pajamas,
pulled the elastic waistband around the still-baby belly,
then tucked her in to bed. Some nights,

when my baby was new and howling and couldn’t be comforted
my body was a torch of pure rage and I pounded the sheets
rather than lift him from his crib.

The baby is so small. His perfect lips
are pursed in sleep, his puffed cheeks still pink. He is small
and I am huge. I hold his whole life

in my arms, and I am so unbearably, terribly strong.