Pumping in the Psych Unit

Intake nurse: what brings you here?

How to tell him each minute

has become elegy

for the last.

I nursed

my daughter

yesterday, watched my leg

untangle for a moth’s trail,

resolve into a distance

between two points.

Watched my nipple seep

into the cracks of sustenance.

The baby I swear could pull

milk from my knuckle.

I am good for looking out windows,

following telephone wires to horizon

and in this stanza turning that dip—

there—into her collarbone.

By this stanza, it is again

just a wire.

I am sad, I tell the nurse.

On a scale of one to ten— ten.

My breasts have hardened,

leaked through my gown.

I unsnap it like it’s her onesie,

every movement

measured now

against my care for her.

The nurse hands me my manual pump

and turns away.

He talks of new pills—

hormone imbalances—

no more breastfeeding—I must

wean myself—while I extract the milk,

wonder the whole time

if recovery is possible

when I don’t know how to have a body,

just how to make one.

Somewhere, my daughter is waking

in her crib, lips puckered—ready

for what I can’t give her.

Somewhere, she is hungry.

Lindsay Adkins is a writer from Western Massachusetts whose work has appeared in Electric Lit, Narrative, great weather for MEDIA, Frontier Poetry, Crab Fat Magazine, So to Speak Journal, and Sugar House Review, among others. She is a recipient of the Amy Award from Poets & Writers, the Phyllis B. Abrahms Award in Poetry, and an Author Fellowship from the Martha’s Vineyard Institute of Creative Writing. She holds an MFA from Stony Brook Southampton. Read more at lindsayadkins.net.