‘Wild Milk’ by Sabrina Orah Mark

Every now and then you come across a story that operates on a completely different frequency and yet makes so much sense it hurts. ‘Wild Milk’’s narrator is leaving her baby at Live Oak Daycare for the first time, and the description of those feelings and exchanges trace a vivid network of associations that I relate to intensely. It shines a Klieg light on the disorientating and illogical pain of navigating your offspring’s separateness from you in the world. 

“Your child,” says Miss Birdy, “is a phenomenon.” I blush. “Oh, thank you. We too think he is very special,” I say. I want to ask about the poncho, but Miss Birdy goes on. “I mean, your child is a mana mana,” says Miss Birdy. “What I mean to say is that your child is a real man.” Miss Birdy softly pinches her tongue and pulls out a long white hair. “Oh, that’s better,” she says. “I mean, a ma.” She makes little, tiny spits. “I mean, a no one. Your child,” says Miss Birdy, “is a real no one. No, no. That’s not it either.” Miss Birdy smoothes her stiff cotton skirt. It’s pink with tiny red cherries on it. “What I mean to say, most of all,” says Miss Birdy, “is that I love not being dead.” “Me too,” I say. “Oh, good! says Miss Birdy. Here’s his bottle. He drank all his milk and then cried and cried and cried for more.

First published by Tin House, 2014 and available to read here. Later collected in Wild Milk, Dorothy a Publishing Project, 2018