From the Archive: “My Mother’s Nipples,” by Robert Hass

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“My Mother’s Nipples,” by Robert Hass, appeared in the Fall 1991 issue of MQR.


They’re where all displacement begins.
They bulldozed the upper meadow at Squaw Valley,
where mist rose from the timothy grass on summer mornings
and moonrise threw the owl’s shadow on voles and wood rats
crouched in the sage smell the earth gave back
with the day’s heat to the night air,
and after they had gouged up the deep-rooted bunchgrass
and the wet alkali-scented earth had been pushed aside
or trucked someplace out of the way, they poured concrete
and laid road–pleasant scent of tar in the spring sun–
and after the framers began to pound nails
and the electricians and plumbers came around to talk specs
with the general contractor, someone put up a pretty green sign
with alpine daisies on it that said Squaw Valley Meadows

*

“He wanted to get out of his head,” she said,
“so I told him to write about his mother’s nipples.”

*

The cosmopolitan’s song on this subject:

Alors! les nipples de ma mère!

The romantic’s song

What could be more fair
than les nipples de ma mère?

The utopian’s song

I will freely share
les nipples de ma mère.

The philosopher’s song

Here was always there
with les nipples de ma mère

The capitalist’s song

Fifty cents a share

The saint’s song

Lift your eyes in prayer

The misanthrope’s song

I can scarcely bear

The melancholic’s song

They were never there,
les nipples de ma mère.
They are not anywhere.

The indigenist’s song

And so the boy they called Loves His Mother’s Tits
Went into the mountains and fasted for three days.
On the fourth he saw a redtailed hawk with broken wings.
On the fifth a gored doe in a ravine, entrails
Spilled onto the rocks, eye looking up at him
From the twisted neck. All the sixth day he was dizzy
And his stomach hurt. On the seventh he made three deep cuts
In the meat of his palm. He entered the pain at noon
And an eagle came to him crying three times like the mewling
A doe makes planting her hooves in the soft duff for mating
And he went home and they called him Eagle Three Times after that.

The regionalist’s song

Los Pechos.
Rolling oak woodland between Sierra pines
and the simmering valley.

[continue reading]


Image: Vintage advertisement for Maidenform Bras.

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