VOICES FROM THE FIRE: M.A. Blickley & Zoe Anastassiou

Mother’s Milk

My lips tremble as if I am about to cry. Please let your mother’s milk steel me against the animal I become when my brain confuses intellectual arousal with physical pleasure. 

Why do I nurse wounds that flow from the expectations of others?  Sometimes it feels like I’m the suckling of a Tin Woman who warns me she has no heart, yet dopamine builds with each puckered kiss swallowed in humiliation or spit back in defiance.  

You lactate a complex flow of contradictions that dribbles down my chin with the shame of a stain. I want to forget the day I found that first red stain on my nine-year old’s Wonder Woman panties. Terrified, I run upstairs to tell Nana. My gentle grandmother slaps me across my face.  

I cry: “Why did you hit me?” Nana says, “Ask your mother when she comes home from work.”  

The moment I hear your key click in the keyhole I run to the door. When I speak, you slap my face too. You, who never laid on a hand on me. Why?  You shrug: “I don’t know. It’s what mothers do. That’s what Nana did to me.”  

Why doesn’t your mother’s milk offer me the nourishment and immunity from judging myself as being nothing more than my menstrual flow? From fertility to maternity to menopause, must I believe that I am simply what I bleed? 

Your milk sours in my mouth whenever you try to convince me your slap was done with love to awaken me from my childhood slumber. I was nine years old. 

If I’m ever blessed to one day suckle my own daughter, I will offer up a kiss, not a slap, when she comes to me with her first red stain. I will celebrate her menstrual flow as sacred, not shameful, as it honors her passage from childhood and will continue to do so right up to her old age.  

And should someone ever claim her blood is a curse, I will ask why is it painful to be reminded of your youth each month?

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