Mother’s Milk

cover-mothers_milk-5,25x8x0,43in-frontI’ve been thinking about Walter Wink’s book Jesus and Nonviolence and our need for moral creativity.

Moral creativity doesn’t mean making up new morals.

Rather, it has to do with the kind of creativity needed to break bad habits. Or the kind of creativity needed to breathe life back into broken relationships. Or the kind of creativity needed to unbalance cycles of anger and violence. Or the kind of creativity needed to see past prejudice. Or the kind of creativity needed to be something more—more kind, more attentive, more humble, more aware, more responsible—than I generally am.

Think about the last time you were angry with your wife or yelled at your son. How predictable was this anger? How automatic? How thoughtless? How uncreative?

Think about that moment, that gap, between what the other person did and how you, like a damn robot, responded. Think about how, in that moment, you might have done something just a little bit different, something that might have short-circuited your anger and changed the whole thing: how you might have used a different tone of voice, or met their eyes, or made the bed, or held your head at a different angle, or surrendered the point, or noticed the light coming through the window, or smiled, or laughed, or wept.

Love depends on this kind of ordinary, practical, moral creativity. Love depends on learning how to bend our ordinary lives—like a poet bends and saves ordinary words—into creative and morally responsive shapes.

On page after page of her book, Mother’s Milk: Poems in Search of Heavenly Mother,  I watched Rachel Hunt Steenblik do this. Perfectly paired with Ashley Mae Hoiland’s striking drawings, I watched poem after poem practice this kind of moral creativity as part of the work of love.

In Steenblik’s poems we find a mother thinking about God the Mother from the everyday heart of lived motherhood.

These poems, searching for God the Mother, aren’t theological or even political so much as they are practical and sensible. They pay attention to the ordinary things that children do and say. They reread familiar lines from scripture. They remind us of the mothers we know who have and are still trying to love us.

These poems ask us to let the world at large—especially the world at large as we men have consistently fashioned it: an idol made in our own image and skewed to our own advantage—to let that world be at least a little less obvious and a little less rigid.

Consider a few examples:

The Mother has a body
of flesh and bones
as tangible as women’s;
Her daughters also. (57)

The evening Cora was born,
I heard a loud crack.
It was my heart, opened.
I knew instinctively
that it would not un-crack,
and that the Mother’s heart
has cracked ten billion times. (82)

Before She formed
me in the belly,
She knew me. (97)

She Came To Her
When the daughter
was sorrowful,
and very heavy,
she cried, Mommy.
She came to her
from heaven,
strengthening her. (110)

As She Is
When She shall appear
we shall be like Her,
for we shall see Her
as She is. (133)

Pink Moccasins
I saw Her, in
Her own house,
wearing pink moccasins
and speaking
as loud
as humanly
possible. (133)

Am I naive enough to think that poems can change the world? Am I naive enough to think that poems can opens eyes and maybe even doors? Am I naive enough to think that poetic creativity and moral creativity often walk hand in hand?

God help me, I want to be.

Read these poems and see if you aren’t too.


  1. Let this be true. These tiny glimpses of the poetry are like a remembering.

  2. These poems can change our Mormon world. They can.

  3. it's a series of tubes says:

    Agreed – after all, on this topic another poem is really all we’ve had to go on for quite a long, long time.

  4. Anyone with a little common sense, and knows a little history knows whites are lying on God about creating African people as a punishment for Ham’s father, then they lie that African people came later and whites were first on the planet. Oh please. My 3-year-old grand daughter knows African people are the first humans on the planet, and were here thousands of years before the white trouble makers came along.

    African people had created almost everything before trouble makers came on the planet, every group learned from African people. We gave the planet everything, and they all learned from black people, as much as whites try to destroy and lie about what we created, it is still there, just look around, trying to destroy the pyramids by shooting off the nose. All math was used in the building of the pyramids, all forms of life went into the building of the pyramids, that is just the pyramids, we did everything.

    I wish to know how will they get away with lying on God like that?

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