The older I get, and the more children I have the harder it is for me to understand how the biblical writers got away with providing us no images of breastfeeding and childbirth to explore the relationship of God to God’s people. Of course I know the reason is that they were men. Let me say it a different way – I’m amazed by how much more powerful and deep images of breastfeeding and childbirth are than images of the courtroom. Eucharist may be the best example. “Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood.” This actually makes sense when we’re thinking about a woman feeding a child with her own body.
I was reminded of these transforming images when listening the Fresh Air interview with Marie Howe earlier today. This is one of the best poems about/not about Eucharist I’ve read in a long time. “My body hurt her.”
My Mother’s Body: a poem by Marie Howe
By Marie Howe, from “The Kingdom of Ordinary Time.”
Bless my mother’s body, the first song of her beating
heart and her breathing, her voice, which I could dimly hear,
grew louder. From inside her body I heard almost every word she said.
Within that girl I drove to the store and back, her feet pressing
pedals of the blue car, her voice, first gate to the cold sunny mornings,
rain, moonlight, snow fall, dogs…
Her kidneys failed, the womb where I once lived is gone.
Her young astonished body pushed me down that long corridor,
and my body hurt her, I know that – 24 years old. I’m old enough
to be that girl’s mother, to smooth her hair, to look into her exultant frightened
her bedsheets stained with chocolate, her heart in constant failure.
It’s a girl, someone must have said. She must have kissed me
with her mouth, first grief, first air,
and soon I was drinking her, first food, I was eating my mother
slumped in her wheelchair, one of my brothers pushing it,
across the snowy lawn, her eyes fixed, her face averted.
Bless this body she made, my long legs, her long arms and fingers,
our voice in my throat speaking to you know.