Once I did kiss her wetly on the mouth
and her lips loosened, her tongue rising like a fish
to swim in my waters
because she learns the world
by tasting it, by taking it inside.
I desired it—her learning my tongue that way.
Yes, I wanted to soul-kiss my daughter,
to lather, slaver the toothless gums
and the cat-arched back of her palate,
to sniff the bouquet of baby's breath
all the way to the vase of her throat
Look at her, in her highchair,
wearing her yam goatee
I like to take her whole foot in my mouth
Look at her, in her bib
slung backward, like a superhero's cape—
beware, small villains everywhere
Oh, that first day
when the nurses returned her to my cot
so newly minted, her soles were black from ink
they laid her, naked, on my naked chest
so she could swell my breasts with milksong,
so I could warm her skin with my skin,
and so, next to my more regular heart,
her skittish beat would steady—
though I swear when she latched on
all meter, music changed
I whispered in her see-through ear
I'd keep her safe forever—
I, her first lover.
W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.
Copyright © 2004
All rights reserved.
Reprinted from Tender Hooks by Beth Ann Fennelly © 2004 by Beth Ann Fennelly. Reproduced by mamazine.com with permission of the publisher, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.
Beth Ann Fennelly received a 2003 National Endowment for the Arts Award. Her book Open House won The 2001 Kenyon Review Prize for a First Book and the GLCA New Writers Award. Her new book, Tender Hooks, was published in April 2004, by W. W. Norton. A book of essays, Great with Child: Letters to a Young Mother, is forthcoming from Norton in 2006. She is an Assistant Professor at the University of Mississippi, and lives in Oxford, MS.