Shannan Mann

breasts (2022)


blue green blue blue green blue the milk
glistens a bead of food on a nipple sowed
into me from your beginning as confetti
of cells multiplying in my aqua until today
a peacock-flow of movement then drip drip
you saffroned in bits of me foisted away
to a bulrush of off-duty doctors for no one
thought on christmas eve a baby’s lungs
may choke on a jet of meconium it ends
with you alive I monsooned with all
nebulae that mothered this universe
a nurse tells me colostrum is liquid gold
and raids my swollen breasts to scrape
escaping drops because what good would it be
rising on my skin transient foam over a cesspool
all the drops of everything in the world weep
for you Anasuya my loneliness is nothing alone
as I am uncalved in the delivery suite alert
enough to suckle the igloo breast-pump
for strange pale blood a proxy of pollock
squirts moistening the plastic
of your little body seined with mine
of a little mouth tangerined with need


no biblical feat happens in seven days
except the maternity ward cancelling
divinity of breasts warring for space
seen as sexual anywhere but here
a male doctor (much to the chagrin of your father)
lands his stethoscope not exactly on my heart and asks
how’s it flowing I shrug as he lifts the left
breast minnowing alveoli and wince it’s not
really enough milk for her he removes his hand
glazed in my sweat and your milk and I want
it back but he says oh you have been pumped
with an ocean of antibiotics skip the next session
relax sleep dream and there shall be more milk
I take his advice wake up at three am into a Kafka
novel my breasts veined cobalt clumped with milky stars
bolted and raging how dare I listen to a man and not drain
them I have to stand there scrubbing corners
I didn’t even know I had how many maps
can you find on a lover’s breasts
next time I listen to the female lactation consultant
her own breasts sagging with wisdom and milk
myself every two hours for twenty minutes per breast
at the tug of the electric pump
I become a pasture of beauty so startling
it could make us heave and vomit
I bring you milkdrops in syringes
a sheaf of gold hay another milkdrop a reed
you can fold into finger and thumb
and blow like a flute a third milkdrop
the succulence of deserts parched for purpose
from the deserted white kitchen all I need is cabbage
leaf for each milkwelling breast O’ed together
and by sunrise they are small and still again


home now sleep now lap now
without teeth you manage to bite
the areola my areola I should say
but it is no longer mine as mojo
does not belong to the shaman
but to everyone it has tended
a ginger slice of pain pungent mellowed
by your sloe eyes why don’t you want
to drink babies drink milk all babies
drink milk we all drink milk forever
in different forms milk that simmers
with the form of a young woman
with cantaloupe breasts and Amazonian hips
drizzling open to a man with a seven-day beard
and a chest tattooed with sacked kingdoms
and how was I to know something as violent
as sex could transport me here in a little
less than ten months hammocking
you milking for you all the colours
black smoke spells in the rain
peach blue blue chrome green blue

About this work

A tri-meditation written during Mann’s postpartum recovery process, breasts is an attempt to reify and resolve physical and emotional pain and pleasure.

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