My infant son no longer swam inside me.
His ghosty body had been conjured,
made separate and solid in my arms,
and the nurse urged me to feed him.
There is no place for modesty
in the maternity ward,
and the nurse watched us intently, all business,
like a cop scrutinizing the surveillance tapes,
gathering clues about how
things would eventually go down
now that the baby and I had been shackled
to each other forever,
She knew things I didn’t.
I pressed a naked breast
which by then was growing hot,
lumpy with milk and foreign to me,
against my son’s impossibly small and
delicate mouth and
His eyes remained closed.
He was tired
and this pressing
and the variations that went on
for a few moments
did not rouse him.
No time for this
the nurse reached across the bed,
took my breast into her warm, clean hand
and efficiently rubbed it up and down
against his flushed cheek,
across his smooth lips, and
Like the time I was fifteen,
my mother driving,
my boyfriend and I spooning
in the back feigning sleep.
It was very dark and very late.
Eyes closed, drugged with hormones,
reaching for his hand I pressed
his palm to my chest
and the subtlety, the nuance of
my then perky cans
was completely lost on him,
or the horrific possibility
of Jesus’s disappointment
or my mother’s face
in the rearview mirror
outweighed this thrill,
or maybe he was tired,
but he pulled his hand away.
Not one to put up with nonsense
the nurse parted my son’s virgin lips
with a fingertip, cautioned me
on my posture and,
between her thumb and fingers,
poked into this small opening she had created
my nipple, which he rolled around with his tongue
then dutifully sucked
until she left the room
and he could fall asleep again.
Amy Pickworth's poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Black Tongue Review; Dusie; Forklift, Ohio, H_NGM_N; New Ohio Review; and Red Wolf Journal, among other places. Her book Bigfoot for Women (Orange Monkey, intro by Matt Hart) was released in 2014.