& do you see how much i love you

Lenelle Moïse
Haiti / United States
Lenelle Moïse's poem "& do you see how much i love you" explores the common question of whether one ever feels truly ready to become a mother, and delves into a queer woman's experience as she wonders about the process of becoming pregnant and having a child.

I was on my way to becoming a womanist, a poet and a theatre artist long before I knew what those words meant. I never felt I had a choice in the matter. Once discovered, the designations made sense, affirmed my nature, described my actions and empowered my life. I embraced the labels with all my blemishes and all my love, with unflinching urgency and joy. Nevertheless, as a queer woman, becoming someone's mother, has always felt like a choice—a luxury—something I need to do carefully and perfectly or not at all. Throughout my twenties, I suspected that I wanted to have a baby, but I wanted to be flawless first. I envied my straight family members and friends who got pregnant “accidentally.” A condom broke, a pill was misplaced, they said yes to fate or fumble and became happy mothers. For me and many other women, conception will take work, ingenuity and, possibly, thousands of dollars. I wrote "& do you see how much i love you?" to process my doubts about motherhood and to permit my longing and dreaming. It's a surging poem about being in love, being afraid, wanting it all and not knowing when to start. It wasn't until I wrote the very last line that I realized that my journey to motherhood—however winding or momentarily gridlocked—has certainly already begun.


& do you see how much i love you

if the baby don't exist yet
come through me
& i have not prepared
have not seen a physician
a nutritionist

an overpriced therapist applied
for medical insurance
applied myself & earned
good credit
a driver's license

a PhD
before i'm thirty
forty-one or good
or ready

if i have not paid
the back taxes paid back
those fucking student loans
stopped cursing
purchased a country

in a state where gays marry
near water
near good detectorless schools
with good gay teachers

who will get us lord
who will get us?
if i have not written my book
ten books
committed every inch of my trust to my lover

to a daily dose of yoga
to lifting up my spirits
to stomping out my anger
to american citizenship
if i have not renewed my passport

over water-grave ancestors
to places
where no one but god
speaks my language places

i'm forced to get by
on good looks
expressive hands
& the kindness of strangers

if i have not fully converted
to buddhism or won a million
two million three million dollar lotto ticket
a genius grant or tenure
my lover's whole heart

if i have not lived to build
a few steps toward social justice
lived my own true free full life
nomadic & shameless
before another life depends

on me & physical stability
financial sanity
emotional hygiene
selfless love
unconditional protection

then i am so afraid
that when the baby don’t exist
yet comes through me
i will cringe when she cries
snap or spit when she fails

challenges my patience
questions my authority
demands my attention
when i am trying to dream or do
when she's convinced my name is mommy

don't want to sound like
my poor mother lord
(and by poor i mean broke)
who shouted
when her unpaid bills met

my clumsy teacup bashing
“should have had an abortion”
so many echo times
claimed to “sacrificed too much”

for my burdensome existence
cursed “you're just like your father.”
who was so close by
but absent
& maybe i was like him lord

& maybe i wasn't
my child will not have a father
my child will be the 8 pound result
of unconventional love

tenacity only
& the money
i will raise
for the cause
there will be science:

a bright good-looking man picked out
of a sperm bank's book
of headshots & credentials
or scandalous stories:
an unsuspecting man picked up

at an activist conference
poetry bar
alvin ailey concert or
in provincetown where the men
know about these things

will my daughter be conceived
in a brave or stupid one night
stand in a three star hotel room
the way dykes dared it
in the seventies? or

will my itchy womb bloom after
a safer sweeter ceremony
in the dimmed romantic privacy
of my small city apartment
sade playing in the background

partner playing fertility doctor
warm turkey baster in one
determined hand
my trembling cheek in her other
once i asked my partner

if she thought she could
fiercely love
a baby
she had not pushed out herself
she said “you & me―

we don't
share blood
& do you see
how much
i love you?”

lord i am full of fear
& hope
& logistical frustration
everyday now i mutter earnest
premature prayers

pray my lover will stay
to hold me
& this idea to flesh i keep
a girl child

cherished long
before she meets
this bumpy
broken world & long

About The Artist 

Award-winning poet, playwright and musician Lenelle Moïse writes jazz-infused, hip-hop bred, politicized performance texts about Haitian-American identity, creative resistance and the intersection of race, class, gender, sexuality and spirit. In addition to featured appearances at universities, theatres and conferences across the USA and Canada, Moïse has performed at the Louisiana Superdome, the United Nations and Off-Broadway at the Culture Project. She is the 2010-2012 Poet Laureate of Northampton, MA, the recipient of the 2009-2010 Astraea Lesbian Writers Fund Award in Poetry and a 2010 Hedgebrook Women Playwrights Festival Fellow. Lenelle was the Spring 2011 Mellon Artist in Residence in the Performance Studies at Northwestern University and a Fall 2011 Fellow at the Ellen Stone Belic Institute for the Study of Women and Gender in the Arts and Media at Columbia College Chicago. She collects ribbons, makes collages and directs videos. Visit www.lenellemoise.com for more info.