In the poem for her daughter Tanya, “Who Will Not Be Vanquished?” Cofer’s love spills over into remarkably succinct metaphors—“you pirouette / so that your wide skirt blooms / around the long stems of your legs / for me to admire your wild beauty” (159). Blooms, stems, and wild work together to give the reader the vision of a tender, gorgeous flower just blossoming outside the reach of and without the aid of any gardener. In the poem, “Unspoken,” Cofer surprises the reader with the obliquity of another well-wrought image, and also with powerfully ambiguous last lines. She hugs her daughter goodnight and her daughter winces; her new breasts are swelling. This wincing brings from Cofer the mother a string of thoughts. She wants to tell her growing child it will not always hurt. She wants to tell her about men and “the pleasure of a lover’s hands on skin” (158). She wants to tell her “of the moment / when a woman first feels a baby’s mouth at her breast, opening her / like the hand of God in Genesis, the moment / when all that led to this seems right” (158). The stunning image of these last lines was also my experience and is the experience of women everywhere who have felt that first suckling: you are transformed forever in the ability to create life and also sustain it. Your self has indeed been opened “like the hand of God in Genesis” (158).
However, Cofer decides not to divulge this future knowledge to her daughter. Instead, she respects her child’s privacy. She remembers, “Instead I say, sweet dreams, / for the secrets hidden under the blanket / like a forbidden book / I’m not supposed to know you’ve read” (158). “Sweet dreams” suddenly represents not only a banal, routine bedtime greeting, but all these future ecstasies Cofer has seen in her mind and wishes for her daughter. But Cofer as mother cannot overstep her boundaries to reveal these to her daughter’s new, growing adult self, and the “forbidden book” is both her daughter’s adolescent body and also a literal book her child stayed up, years before, reading instead of sleeping. Cofer chooses to pretend now that she does not see