Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Miriam Pederson: "What Is Our Deepest Desire?"

To be held this way in our mother’s arms,
to be nestled deep in the warmth
of her body, her gaze,
to be adored, to overwhelm her
with our sweetness.
This is what we seek in chocolate,
in the food and drink and drugs
that stun the senses, that fill the veins
with the rich cream of well being.
What we take for lust—can it be, perhaps,
a heavy pang of longing to be swaddled,
close, close to the heartbeat of our mother?
No bucket seats, Jaccuzi, or even a lover’s embrace
can duplicate this luxuriance,
this centered place on the roiling planet.

When the old woman, small and light,
can be carried in the arms of her son,
he, at first, holds her tentatively,
a foreign doll,
but gradually, as the pool loses its ripples,
he sees his face in hers
and draws her to him,
rocking to the rhythm of her breathing.
This is the way to enter and leave the world.

"What Is Our Deepest Desire?" by Miriam Pederson, from New Poems from the Third Coast: Contemporary Michigan Poetry, edited by Conrad Hilberry, Josie Kearns, Michael Delp and Donald Hall. © Wayne State University Press, 2000.

Image credit: "Saigonese mother," oil on canvas, by Pham Viet Song, 1969 (originally color).


  1. This is beautiful. It describes the bond of love that is designed for a mother and child. That nurturing experience is one too many children are being deprived of in today's world of formula feeding our babies from a bottle, making them sleep alone, putting them in all kinds of containers which denies them of the closeness they yearn for. A mother's love is needed for a child to grow up the way they are meant to. It's not surprising that those who are denied the luxury that is a mother's love/milk/affection/comfort/adoration/approval would seek it in any form possible.

  2. this made me sad yet content

  3. What an honest and beautiful poem. Reading it makes me very emotional. It reminds me of the first moments I held my son and how our relationship and love for one another grew deeper with every silent conversation we had as we gazed into each other's eyes as he nursed in my arms. It really paints a very vivid and beautiful picture. I think many parents hold their newborn children like a foreign doll at first, if even for a second. Then, either gradually or quickly, that foreign element transforms into familiarity as you begin to recognize your features and the features of your spouse in your new baby's face. For the son to treat the mother like she treated him in their first moments together seems a very fitting end. What a beautiful picture, I hope my son looks at me with such love when I am old and small and frail. The circle of life is delicate, and incredibly beautiful.


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