I Pump Milk like a Boss

Kendra DeColo

I pump milk on the side of the road where the grass is biblical greenas if first cousin to the cow, her pink and swollen tits immaculateas the plumbing of a church organ sending up calls to god, brassy meshof notes, fermented and dank as kush. I pump milk with my bare handsinto a bar’s bathroom sink, above which is a mirror where someone’s scrawledI Love Cricket Pussy and below that, Everyone Deserves to be Loved.I look at myself under the fingered smudge, the bodily fluids spatteredlike haikus and I pump as if my milk is propaganda,fingers bowing across my chest like a pawnshop violin,milky graffiti tagging the spit-clogged drain.I pump like I’m writing my name in bloodwhich turns to the milk my child sucks dry, which she turns into blood.I pump like I have a tattoo on my pudendathat says Aerosmith backwards, I pumpas if my hands have teeth, one combat boot hitched up on the toilet seat,each hiss of milk chanting like a choir yes bitch yes,my tits bitten and salt-veined, as when my babytook her first gulp of air, hummingfrom the engorged crevasse of melike a herd of wildebeest, as if the hive of me could have burst,the infrared honey, the glop glopof afterbirth dripping down my left leg,spittle and amen, amniotic residuefluorescent with prayer—Do men lactate is a popular Google search and I wonderwhat would happen if they could, our presidentslifting their offspring to their breasts in the deep pocketsof night, listening to the dribble of milksipped from the pulpit of their bodies. Tonight my breastsbecame so engorged I said I’d pay someone to suck my titshalf-joking. But a woman who heard followed me to the bathroom, read mea sex poem while I pumped my milk, leaning away from the need in her voiceand the milk came slow and I pumped and waited for her to finishand a streetlight scribbled in the parking lotand I know there is a price we pay for lonelinessand a price we pay to forget it and I dedicate my libidoto my younger self and this is how I want to live, milk-stained, a little bit emptied,a little bit in love with the abundance of my body,my milk pale yellow with a layer of creamwhich I will save long after it’s turned, praising its curdled glowevery time I open the fridge, as if its presence is enough to keep me safe,as if it’s enough to make me invincible.

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photo of Kendra DeColo
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Lindsey Rome

Kendra DeColo is the author of three poetry collections, I Am Not Trying to Hide My Hungers From the World (BOA Editions, 2021), My Dinner with Ron Jeremy (Third Man Books, 2016) and Thieves in the Afterlife (Saturnalia Books, 2014), selected by Yusef Komunyakaa for the 2013 Saturnalia Books Poetry Prize. She is also co-author of Low Budget Movie (Diode, 2021), a collaborative chapbook written with Tyler Mills. She has received awards and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, MacDowell, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the Millay Colony, Split this Rock, and the Tennessee Arts Commission. Her poems and essays have appeared in American Poetry Review, Tin House Magazine, Waxwing, Los Angeles Review, Bitch Magazine, VIDA, and elsewhere. She currently teaches at The Hugo House and lives in Nashville, Tennessee.

"I have always loved Kendra DeColo’s poems, so it’s no surprise that I love this new book, I Am Not Trying to Hide My Hungers From the World. But I love it so much. DeColo somehow manages to write poems that are equal parts swagger and soft, equal parts holler and prayer. Poems that are irreverent and dead serious, playful and pained, built of precise and impeccable and raucous music. Poems wonderful and strange and luminous, as is everything when you look, when you feel, as hard, and beautifully, as DeColo does."
—Ross Gay, author of The Book of Delights: Essays

"There is a generosity that flows through this book, not just in the intimate poems about giving life and then caring for a life, but also the poems that slowly, gently circle food courts, or open with off-brand granola bars. This book and these poems are a true testament to how intimacy and generosity can take as many forms as a writer needs you to see them in."
—Hanif Abdurraqib, author of A Fortune for Your Disaster

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