Treasure Island

Gwendolyn Brooks

(7 June 1917 – 3 December 2000 / Topeka, Kansas)

The Mother


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
Your luck
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
All.

Submitted: Monday, January 20, 2003
Edited: Tuesday, January 17, 2012

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  • Christina Bailey (5/19/2008 9:32:00 PM)

    Shelby,

    I think the poem tells us how profoundly impossible it is to understand abortion. She is able to describe to us each paradox involved: from thinking we have the ability to make the decision to the inability to know whether or not it is a child; whether or not anything was created and could have died. It must be that something was created, how else can the speaker be a mother, why would she love something, but still, it is not a child, it is a 'pulp'; we can only get questions we will never be able to answer.

    Also, Roe v Wade did not legalize abortion, it took that decision-making capability away from the States and made it a Federal decision. You should read the history behind it, it wasn't very good for women when they had to obtain 'back-alley' abortions from 'wayward' doctors or resort to doing it themselves. Plainly, abortion has always been and presumably will always be within the realm of possibilities for pregnant women, the question we can answer is whether or not it can be done safely and if it should be governments' decision.

    Finally, I am not 'for abortion', I am simply not able to take away the power from any woman regarding her decision (though Brooks tells us you can never really make that decision and understand it) . I would not have an abortion if I found myself in that situation, but I cannot even understand that decision, and I don't and can't judge anyone for what they choose. She will always be a mother though, somehow. I also do not feel that it should be a question that government answers.

    -Christina (Report) Reply

  • Shelby Alvarez (4/7/2008 10:08:00 PM)

    IMMATURE COMMENT KAITLYN BUT WHEN CAN WE SAY.....THE POEM WAS WRITTEN SO BEAUTIFULLY...AS A 16 YEAR OLD, READING THIS POEM HAS HELPED ME TO UNDERSTAND ABORTION AND WHY IT IS OFTEN PERCEIVED AS A NEGATIVE THING....BEFORE THIS I WAS FOR ABORTION NO MATTER WHAT, BUT AFTER READING THE POEM I'VE COME TO A SOLID CONCLUSION THAT ABORTION SHOULD NOT HAVE EVEN BEEN LEGALIZED


    MAY GWENDOLYN'S SOUL REST IN PEACE
    WISH SHE WAS STILL HERE TO WRITE MORE BEAUTIFUL POETRY

    ~OUT~ (Report) Reply

  • Caren Duncan (11/21/2007 11:30:00 AM)

    This poem was wrote in the 1940's. There was a completly different set of reasons for an abortion at that time and place, and that should be considered before writing a negative review based only on the subject on not the writing. Also, Gwendolyn Brooks did not have an abortion herself. I think this poem is amazingly wrote. (Report) Reply

  • Dunja Kovacevic (11/19/2007 4:34:00 PM)

    This is a powerful poem about a very difficult topic. To have the courage and the strength to relay a painful experience in such an honest way is so rare.
    Comments like the last one, are exactly what hinders most people from sharing these darker parts of themselves with other people.
    No one deserves to be put in that position, and no one deserves to feel that way afterwards. But hey, life is full of tough lessons. Let he who has not sinned cast the first stone, right?
    Anyways, the poem was moving, and written with a simple eloquence. (Report) Reply

  • Kaitlyn Simc (11/14/2007 12:23:00 PM)

    Abortion is wrong, no matter what. I liked the beginning, but the time I found out that she had an abortion. YUCK. Nice poem, would have been better if she was talking about how disgusting abortion is. I'm glad she felt bad about it. Deserved it. (Report) Reply

  • Kiana Gates (8/17/2007 11:47:00 AM)

    This poem is so deep. It reaches deep inside a mother who made the decision to abort her child. All the feelings that were left on that table are expressed through this poem. (Report) Reply

  • Sha'ree Greenwood (5/15/2007 5:22:00 PM)

    This poem is very moving! ! ! I absolutely can relate to both sides of the fence and with all honesty this poem needs to be at every OBGYN across the country.. (Report) Reply

  • Vanessa Hoover (11/29/2006 3:40:00 PM)

    I first read this poem in my college English class. I can understand completely where she is coming from writing his poem. I am so glad she is able to share what she felt with the world. (Report) Reply

  • Sue Trigg (8/26/2006 5:33:00 PM)

    Just re-read this poem after 22 years (first read it at a creative writing calss in Chocago) now, at 50 and now having both myself and my daughters face the same plight, the words are even more powerful, bold and heart felt. A beautiful poem filled with regret, tinged with self hatred, that still resonates with any woman faced with the same (never wanted) choice. (Report) Reply

  • Brian Dorn (7/20/2006 9:56:00 PM)

    A powerful poem touching on so many tumultuous factors a mother must face following an abortion. Nothing sugar coated plus a startling ending and plenty to think about. (Report) Reply

  • Cassie Darnell (6/8/2005 7:07:00 PM)

    I really enjoyed reading this poem, it was sad but there is such a truth to it. I have never seen such honesty in a poem before. I think Gwendolyn Brooks is a very talented writer; she has an amaxing way with words. (Report) Reply

  • Ronell Warren Alman (12/15/2004 3:27:00 PM)

    Gwendolyn is not afraid to speak her mind about such sensitive topics. She is very gallant with her words. She doesn't care what anyone thinks of her. This lady has such a big heart. She is definitely one of my favorite poets! ! ! (Report) Reply

  • Angela Marcelo (12/10/2004 9:41:00 PM)

    iNcReDibLe...one-of-a-kind...Brooks is not afraid of showing her feelings about sensitive issues such as abortion...she really is a good poet not to mention good mentor... (Report) Reply

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