“The Body of My Mother
Tell me about your mother’s body. Her hands and her feet, her belly and her breasts. Tell me about her skin and her hair and the color of her eyes. Tell me about her smell—her breath, her underarms, the scent of her when she leaned in close.
In the beginning I do not want to know your grievances with her. Do not tell me, yet, about how she failed you, disappointed you, infuriated you, frightened you. Do not tell me about your relationship with her, much as I know you want to. No, let us leave all that, for now. Tell me about your mother’s body.
If she were an animal, and she was, I tell you this, she was, how would you describe her? Tell me about her fur and her funk, her fangs and her feathers. Did she fly? Did she burrow? Did she slither upon the ground or slink through the shadows of the forest at dusk or step into the meadow at noon her head held high?
You have reached out your hand to lay it upon hers and already I know that you have begun to cry.
Her hands were dry, her nails were always polished, her nails were chipped, her nails were long, her nails were bitten down until they bled. Her fingers were long, thin, swollen, tapered, stubby, and bent with arthritis. At the end of her life was her skin mottled with brown spots? Maybe you touched her hand after she died and felt it turn hard and cold. Maybe she is still alive, but it is a long time since you imagined touching her. Maybe you look at your own hands and always see hers.
Your mother’s body was your first home in this life. Deep within the darkness of her womb you came into the knowing of who you might be this time listening to her heart beat, smelling her blood from within, feeling her muscles contract around your body. Her body creating your body.
My mother was a tiger, her languorous haunches moving stealthily through the jungle. My mother was a seal, her body undulating in the waves. My mother was an imperious crow, muttering curses under her breath. My mother was a spider, a snake, a vole, a hawk. My mother was an animal.
She was magnificent, more than an ordinary beauty. Dark hair, green eyes, the face of a movie star. Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra, Cleopatra as Isis herself. Isis as the bird, the sow, the cow, and the scorpion. Her bosom was voluptuous and her belly soft. Her legs were long and her arches high. Hers was not a toned athleticism but the lazy muscularity of a cat.
I would never be as head-turning gorgeous as my mother. I knew that early on. But there it is I want to tell you not just about her but about us, and all the fraught love of mothers and daughters—the whole catastrophe of resentments, longing, betrayals, and devotion.
But I need to tell you about the body of my mother—and I need to hear about the body of your mother and together we must remember what was done to the bodies of all of our mothers. All of our mothers.
For a long time now their bodies, our bodies, have been under attack.”
~ Perdita Finn (an excerpt from her newest book under construction.)
Art: Kat Shaw
Kat Shaw Artist
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