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BooksSeptember 14, 2018

The Friday Poem: ‘Mère-mare’ by Emma Neale

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New verse by Dunedin writer Emma Neale.




Last night in my sleep

my baby’s father came

to take him away from me.


I had borne a boy

I was forbidden to hold

though his mouth was sere and sore

and golden colostrum welled in me

like the cells’ own cry for water.


I had done some terrible thing —

and as I slowly woke to it,

groping for knowledge as if for watch or lamp,

the baby gazed at me

with ancient desperation;

yet flat, dim shapes dragged me back

as my breasts wept runnels of milk’s white lava;

and the new father spoke

with the crackle of plastic,

swore the new mother could never

bear to see me; said I’d signed a pact

to render my child unto them

as if the body were merely an ice cube mold

that only had to heat and flex a little

to release its self-compacted pockets

of piquant, enigmatic sweetness.


When I truly woke

and both real sons crept in close beside me,

tousled heads bunting the crook of my arms, my neck

like young steers remembering their udder-honey,

even then, the scalpel of loss hooked deep, scored deeper —

even now, something naked, lowing and primate haunts here


terrified of what truths speak through dreams.


Emma Neale, 2018

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