“The Mother: Remember the children you got that you did not get” Gwendolyn Brooks’ poem “The Mother” is ambiguous and totally unexpected. The narrator starts by speaking about abortion in a very accusatory tone. In the first part of the poem the narrator uses second person language and accuses mothers of getting abortions and talks about how all the mothers will be missing out on seeing their children grow. She is talking to readers about abortions in general. She talks to mothers and patronizes them, “Abortions will never let you forget. You remember the children you got that you did not get.” (1-2), she starts the poem with a paradox. The narrator sounds like an antiabortion and will speak for having a child; but as the poem came to an ending it seemed like she is trying to justify her own actions. As the poem goes on the speaker suddenly changes her language and starts to talk about herself in a first person language. She explains how she cannot forget how many children she has killed. From the second part of the poem she starts to talk about her children, which meant that she had not one but multiple abortions and now is haunted by it. She starts to talk about her pain and loss about not having a child, “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” (11-15). In these lines the speaker starts to blame herself; and then the tone becomes angry and helpless, “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” (17-20). In these last few lines she again is listing out the things she will miss about her children and reminds the readers that she is full aware of the things and is regretful, but she still does the abortion. Along with the title of the poem there is another irony here, she says she stole their deaths by not letting them grow, she is saying she did not naturally let them die and had killed them herself before they were born. Our class had an intense conversation about the lines “If I poisoned the beginnings of your breaths, Believe that even in my deliberateness I was not deliberate.” (21-22), someone had suggested about how there is another paradox here. The tone has once again changed and she again tries to justify herself and her actions.
She tries to explain that even though she had gone through with the procedure and succeeded in getting the abortion, it was not what she had intended. Later on the narrator starts to sound very hypocritical, “Though why should I whine, Whines that the crime was other than mine? Since anyhow you are dead.” (23-25). Here the speaker is stressing over her own words, one moment her tone is sad and regretful and the next she is saying that there is no point as the child is already dead. The mother started the poem by accusing others of getting rid of their unborn, then she directly starts to talk to her dead children and now she is reasoning with herself about getting an abortion. She talks about a crime but does not call herself a criminal; somehow she tried to sound like the victim. She questioned if it was another’s fault. She tries hard not to take the blame on herself; in that particular line she is possibly implying that there may have been another person in the scene that had made her do this, but none were mentioned, which indicates she is just looking for a way to share the blame with someone else, so that shame is not heavy on her.
Once the mother’s intensions were established the tension between the mother and her unborn children and abortion was pretty luminous. She claims to have multiple abortions and explains her grief about giving up her children, yet she never apologized. She cannot get over the ghosts of all the children and is haunted by what could have happened, yet she is not apologetic, she never once mentioned that maybe she should have changed her mind and kept one child. Before she ends the poem she says, “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.” (29-31). In those lines she tries to speak the truth and tries to accept that each child had a body and lived but it died. She even says it is faulty, but still does not blame herself for the abortions. She ends the poem by saying, “Believe me, I loved you all. Believe me, I knew you, though faintly, and I loved, I loved you All.” (32-34). It seems as though she tries to sound like a loving mother and tries to tell her unborn children that she loved them and vaguely knew them.
Brooks, Gwendolyn. “The Mother.” Poets.org. Academy of American Poets, n.d. Web. 15 Feb. 2014.
Courtney from Study Moose