Study Guide

the mother Language and Communication

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Language and Communication

Abortions will not let you forget.
You remember the children you got that you did not get, (1-2)

The poem begins in a pretty intense way. What makes it so intense, you ask? We think it's that "you" in the first line. That "you" involves us, the readers of the poem, and thus implicates us in the stakes of "the mother." The speaker isn't the only one who is trying to figure out her relationship with her aborted pregnancies. Her language puts us in that same position too.

I have said, Sweets, if I sinned, if I seized
Your luck
And your lives from your unfinished reach,
If I stole your births and your names, (14-17)

Here the speaker addresses her "sweets" directly, and she says that she "seized" their lives. These lines tell us that then speaker believes that her terminated pregnancies did have a kind of life—even if those pregnancies never reached birth.

Though why should I whine,
Whine that the crime was other than mine?— (22-23)

Woah, here's another intense moment. The speaker puts it all out on the table, and refers to her abortion as a "crime." There's no ambiguity in her language here.

Since anyhow you are dead.
Or rather, or instead,
You were never made.
But that too, I am afraid,
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. (24-30)

In these lines, the speaker is once again trying to sort through her language, and figure out the best way to express both her feelings and experiences. But it ain't easy to put language to a being that never was. Even at the end of the poem, it seems that the mother is still struggling to put language to her experience.

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