“Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?”
From “Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front” (1973) by Wendell Berry
It keeps ringing in my mind, the question—will this satisfy? Does this satisfy my bearing body, mind, and soul?
A while back, just after some new friends asked us to bring poems to their party, Berry’s “Manifesto” entered my ears. Thank God, too, for I felt I had lost my mooring; I did not find my bare and pregnant footing secure on the Liberation Front, but felt instead tucked away somewhere in the back behind selfish sentimentality and careless caution, shut in the “mothers’ room,” it seemed, away from the unction and the action.
And then I remembered those words, words that had once called a congregation to worship through me, through my all-woman, dress-clad, wild-haired body. I remembered those words, that question—“will this satisfy a woman satisfied to bear a child?”
And suddenly my feet sank securely in the fertile humus of liberation, my body felt at home again in her role as co-creator and Wisdom whisperer at the Front, at the cusp of what God woos in the world.
Pregnancy. Motherhood. These are realities all too easily gussied into arbitrary positions of cherished and protected virtue; the Victorian ethos still stinks our blood.
But according to those on the Front, Pregnancy and Motherhood are portents of truth and prophetic processes of Being.
There is something about where I am right now—crotch sore, impatient, wholly-open, sensitive, and preparing—that lends vital intel to the movement of liberation in this world.
I can feel it if I listen.
American politics, usually so well compartmentalized in my mind, kept my tired and aching body awake deep into the night the other week.
I suddenly could not go one more day without a compost pile, desiring to live linear no longer, but to rather enjoin the gifting circle of real life.
Petty differences have shifted into nothing and deeper issues stay shuttered no more.
Public libraries have taken the sheen of a new thrall.
I want to walk everywhere, to see and be here and now.
But getting knocked up does not automate Dali Lama status.
Like all moments of transition and growth in life, there is an option to ignore the Presence, or, heaven help and heal us, there is the reality of being so wounded that we cannot feel the Presence.
Perhaps I cannot lay a blanket generality across all space and time, but I can say that pregnancy and motherhood has already proved to be one of the most achingly illuminating experiences of unfolding wisdom and uncompromising communion of my life.
I hear what Berry’s asking. I hear it in my cells.
My womb, the fierce and hospitable wild-worker that it is, won’t let me forget the question and its object.
Does. this. satisfy?
Does this nourish or destroy?
Will this give life or will it be an adversary to our cause?
Can this liberate or will we have to make it not to stand?
I am ineffably connected to everything. Right now my child is every child. She is every hope in this world.
And thus my body begs the question and demands we answer clearly and with action.
Those of you here with me, know me—
Know the cry of my mucus membranes and maternal memories.
Liberate my Pregnancy and Motherhood from the hollow halls of “it’s just hormones” and homey feeling.
Let me stand on the Front where I belong.
Liberation means more to none than Me, She said.
Her body bearing us all
To the fullness of Her dream.
Hear a mother today—
even if that means hearing yourself.