Study Guide

the mother Politics

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

By addressing the audience in these opening lines, the speaker immediately involves us, her readers, in her poem. It asks us to think about abortion not just in terms of one woman's choices, but in terms of our own. This move from the personal to the public right in the beginning of the poem forces us to think about the politics of abortion. There's no escape! Politics is all around us.

If I poisoned the beginnings of your breaths,
Believe that even in my deliberateness I was not deliberate.
Though why should I whine,
Whine that the crime was other than mine?— (20-23)

In these lines, the speaker brings up her deliberateness—her conscious decision—but also her "crime." These two words in tandem make it sound like she is convicting herself of a deliberate crime. But is abortion actually a crime? Not today. But when Brooks wrote this poem, abortion was a crime in some states.

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)

The speaker's struggle to put language to her experience (and the experience of her non-existing children) is not just personal, but political. How we refer to aborted pregnancies is always already a political decision.

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