“You were afraid to nurse your young
lest fallen breast offend your master’s sight
and he should flee to firmer loveliness.
And so you passed them, your children, on to me.
Flesh that was your flesh and blood that was your blood
drank the sustenance of life from me.
And as I gave suckle I knew I nursed my own child’s enemy.
I could have lied,
told you your child was fed till it was dead of hunger.
But I could not find the heart to kill orphaned innocence.
For as it fed, it smiled and burped and gurgled with content
and as for color knew no difference.
Yes, in that first while
I kept your sons and daughters alive.
But when they grew strong in blood and bone
that was of my milk
taught them to hate me.
Put your decay in their hearts and upon their lips
so that strength that was of myself
turned and spat upon me,
despoiled my daughters, and killed my sons.
You know I speak true.”
- Beah Richards, an excerpt from A Black Woman Speaks of White Womanhood
A friend of mine shared this excerpt on Facebook, and it really affected me. Firstly, I cannot imagine how it must feel to be forced into something so intimate to benefit an enemy. Your owner. Your master. Secondly, the act itself, as the poet alludes to, is so pure and bonding. I know that I feel most connected to my daughter in those sweet moments of nourishment. To see that child grow older and grow to hate you because of brainwashing alone… Devastating. This poem, wow. All I can do is shake my head as the tears well up in my eyes.