Mammalian Mother Tongues

Composer: Rebecca Bruton
For saxophone quartet
  1. Where is the black milk now?
  2. Animals, plants, fungi, and microbes.


‘…she was so lovely, serene and glowing in the dim light of the loamy cowshed.  She watched me with wary curiosity as I came in and knelt down beside her in the shadowy barn.  Shyly, wisely, she lifted her delicate whiskered muzzle to my face and sniffed my eyes.  Then she nuzzled my palms, as if to assess whether she should fear them or hope to find something good there.

…a pregnant mammal should never leave her local environment just before giving birth, because her thick first milk – known as colostrum – contains antibodies to the specific pathogens where she has been gestating.  By extension, then, any milk is entangled with places: made of everything the mammalian motherbody eats, drinks, and breathes as she feeds the growing fetus and eventually the newborn.

All across the wickedly hot, haunted, weedy, and bastard-beautiful South that summer, Aliass’ blood and mammary glands brewed antibodies to hidden, harmful elements of the places we passed through....This colostrum she made held residues and traces of all the miles we travelled, wading through roadside weeds and trash and broken glass, lonesome thistle-grown hayfields, crossroads and train-tracks, and the harrowed traces of long-gone mules and ghosts of the American South…Aliass’ milk-to-be held traces of all the border-crossings, borrowed pastures, hot asphalt, roadside grasses, wakeful nights in strangers’ woods, and infinite encounters with countless other beings, both familiar and unseen – held it all like memory is supposed to’.


Mammalian Mother Tongues is a long, meandering, and very milky, song.


From R.A.W. ASSMILK SOAP (parapoetics for a posthuman barnyard), by Karin Bolender (2016 Lab for Aesthetics and Ecology & Broken Dimanche Press).

For more information on Karin Bolender and her work with the Rural Alchemy Workshop (R.AW.), please visit