Advice for the New Mother

by Allison Adair

Mornings, hands will pull at the new folds of your body until you produce something worthy of a mouth. So take bread, and butter the bread and hold it the way you would a face, back when you wondered what a face might hold. Carry the bread on a plate as it gazes up at you, at your face, wondering where it’s headed, to whose mouth. The bread is no longer an object, but a series of calculations: coordinates of the dense spherical eye a tired surgeon moves from one body to another. The hollow socket gapes like a wet hatchling. All the while the eye, the bread, the child gazes up at you, insistent on its new home, optic nerve dangling like the sooty roots of a hopeless plucked beet, like the tentacles of soft russet coral swaying, inert in waves so deep they’re only sound. Beneath your shirt, the coral’s fleshy tubes stand there breezing, waiting for warmth and motion, for the vibration that compels them to seize and to release their lethal milk. This is breakfast. This is what you wanted.

Allison Adair’s poetry has appeared in Mid-American Review, The Boston Globe, and the anthology Hacks, and is forthcoming from The Missouri Review. Winner of the 2014 Fineline Competition and a finalist for Best Small Fictions 2015, Adair teaches at Boston College and Grub Street.

What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “Advice for the New Mother “?

    “Advice for the New Mother” came in one burst, late at night while I was recalling the first few months after giving birth. I’d moved around in a kind of surrealist haze, with semi-conscious associations and skewed, insomniac logic. Everything was suddenly redefined, charged by this strange ambivalence between power and fallibility. At first I wanted to explain it — but there was nothing to explain, just a feeling, a ten-car pileup of overwhelming images. So I stopped trying to shape things and instead let myself just render that time, the meaningful funhouse of motherhood, the sense that even the most mundane task holds great intensity, and peril.
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