Milky Way (Edited Sleep Body)


Milky Way

We lie down to nurse.  It’s hard
when you’re too tired, so resistant then
to the approach of the sleep body
with its soft net
and velveteen onesie.

Though you first mine my nipple
like a machine, I soon have to keep your head towards me
as you try to turn and look, turn and look, determined
to sight the creep of that interloper (sleep),
while I, in turn, try to serve
as your true North,
the pole that is rotated around, that hardly itself

Then, of a sudden, the tussle changes, and legs kicking
a slow dangle, you seem to push
against your own skin–as you once did mine–
as if the sleep body were simply too tight, as if
it belonged to some smaller baby, yesterday’s child,
until, at last, fingers float,
fallen petals, and, with the resolution
of a rosebud, your lips
let go.

You look so complete
unto yourself,
that now I feel the interloper,
and I twist of a sudden
with the question of what
you can know of love,
whether, for you,
it isn’t only an embrace
of our mother bodies and baby bodies,
our nursing bodies and suckling bodies,
and not this individual me, this one and only me,
and not this individual you, this expressly you,
and now it’s me that becomes fretful,
until I turn back to you,
my true North,
and feel love, whether yours or mine, arcing over us
like a galaxy, big enough
for every single body we may become and too for all those stars
that wink at us, rotating
in our wake,
bigger even than that,
as we close and open our eyes,
as we open and close
our eyes.

Here’s a poem I still haven’t gotten right! Editing even after posting!  I am posting it for Victoria Slotto’s Meeting the Bar challenge on dVerse Poets Pub in response to her request to edit something old.  Thank you, Victoria, for the interesting hard exercise. 

This is based upon a  poem which I wrote long ago when nursing one of my daughters.  The old poem was never right either, but I post it below just for purposes of this exercise and for any interested. 

I’ve found this very hard to edit, in part because I know the subject matter makes some uncomfortable, but largely because I ended up having to cut many lines I like and because I could never decide on the real point of the poem.   

So here’s the old old poem.   It’s way too long and not very good –please only read if interested in editing processes.



Escaping the Sleep Body

We lie down to nurse these days
to put you to sleep.
It is hard to get into position.
I sometimes have to pull your legs
as if they were trussed,
pick up your torso too.
Even though you fight
against the arranging, you
latch onto my breast quickly and
pull hard.
When you turn to sucking,
you are a machine.
It is not like gasping for air,
more like drilling for oil, you
mine the nipple with your fingertips.

Then suddenly you pull away,
back and away.
You rub your eyes full-fisted,
your torso twists
as if pulling above the surface of Loch Ness.  You arch
like a Cobra, Bujhangasana.
It is the tussle with your sleep body,
beginning in earnest.

You look around the room,
then back, then
into the room again (just in case),
then back.  You suck
at my breast as if
something were stuck there, cannot come out.
But is it really what you want?
You also feel the approach of the sleep body,
with its net, and its small warm place,
You try to hide from it,
to resist, but
I keep your head towards me, serving as your North,
the unchanging pole.

Soon (like the development of
coordination according to my books),
the fight moves down your body.
Though you stop looking away, your hips
writhe against my side,
your leg kicks dangled rhythms
even as you suck methodically and
in time.
But it’s too tight, it just won’t fit.  The sleep body seems to belong
to some smaller baby, yesterday’s child, you can’t slide in
easily.   You try to climb over me,
sometimes you even cry out, trying, it seems,
to push through
your own skin, the way you once did mine.

Until everything just slows.
Your fingers upon my breasts,
like delicate petals, float.
The sleep face spreads over yours like powdered
sugar from a seive.
You don’t give up the breast, but suck
in intervals as
an adult might shift in the night.
When you finally let go,
your lips press together in a set

You look so complete when you sleep.
Feeling something extra now, redundant, I wonder what
you can know of love, whether it isn’t simply an embrace
of our mother bodies and baby bodies,
our sucking bodies and nursing bodies,
our waking and sleeping bodies
and not this individual me body, this one and only me body, and not
this individual you body, this particularly expressly you body,
and suddenly it’s the me body
that becomes fretful, worried, and the you body
that is so certain,
its very own North.


Final note — so sorry in being late to visit people.  Will catch up.  Have a great weekend. 

Final final note — a prayer for peace.

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15 Comments on “Milky Way (Edited Sleep Body)”

  1. I loved both though the first was a broader photograph on emotional experience of sweet sleep, the warm milk of two involved ~ Fabulous writing !

  2. Karin, this is breath-taking. You have captured this moment of intimacy between mother and child in such a sacred way. I wish every prospective mother could read this, especially if they consider not nursing. I almost didn’t want to read the unedited one after this!

  3. hedgewitch Says:

    Gosh, K what an enterprise to tackle. The original is very direct, very detailed, and seems so like an impregnable unit that I’m amazed at how thoroughly you edited it, yet ended up with such a very similar(in a good way) piece–I would have thought to change much of anything there would have made it lose depth and connection, but just the opposite, even though you’ve changed both order and emphasis and lots and lots of words. I was going to say I liked your second (most recent)ending better, but really I’m at a loss–they both seem equally valid places to stop. I really like the lines about Loch Ness and the Cobra–glad I got to see those. Anyway–thanks for posting both–I enjoyed both reading them, and seeing the process.

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      I wanted to show how you end up sometimes sacrificing lines that you really like simply because in my mind its sometimes useful to be shorter. Of course as I was cutting the emphasis shifted which is why I ended up with changes ending. Thanks for your kind words–it proves harder than I thought with several intermediate versions. But all today and i thought just showing the two was more dramatic.

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      Ps I like the older ending too but feared ending on. North might seem somehow cold rather than magnetic.

  4. brian miller Says:

    wow. interesting to see the two together k..what an intimate moment too between mother and child…somethin i will never get to experience but second hand in the connection i see between mother and child and can imagine it would be hard to get it just right…you look so complete when you sleep is a line that jumps out at me and something i am very familiar with as i loved to watch my babies sleeping…

  5. claudia Says:

    i like your edits – and i like the poem much – that brought back some lovely memories – always enjoyed to be able to breast feed my babies – to give them what they needed – there’s much more to it than just food – it’s this closeness and intimacy that builds the bridge from the time in the womb to their first steps…beautiful k.

  6. margaret Says:

    “editing even after posting”. Ha ha – that cracked me up.

    Did you have to lose “Your fingers upon my breasts,
    like delicate petals, float.” ???? I so remember that (sigh)

    The first stanza throws me a bit off – what about keeping something similar to the following for a beginning? :

    Even though you fight
    against the arranging, you
    latch onto my breast quickly and
    pull hard.

    I enjoyed the images of “trussing” in the second (ha ha) but realize somethings need to be edited. I mean, does anyone who reads this amazing poem really come up with anything other than you are nursing? 🙂

    • margaret Says:

      OH, and adore the title.

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      You know as a mother several times over, you probably appreciate the nursing stuff, and the delicate petals more than most. I really liked that too, and the trussing– a lot of people are kind of weird about nursing! I may go back and revisit again – or I had an interim version that was less cut – that I did during the day of all the cutting. It’s always hard when you are in the midst of something to have a sense of being finished–at least for me – which is why I will say that it’s a draft, etc.

      I will have to revisit this again some time. Thanks, Margaret. k.

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