Amy Pickworth

Latching On


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,

no backsies.


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,

sandwiching me

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.