A tune for a swollen womb

She sleeps soundly when she is at his place. The first few times, he doesn’t mind she sleeps in late and misses breakfast and morning coffee, but after a while this becomes irritating. He decides to buy a cockerel from a neighbour, hoping the bird will wake his girlfriend with its loud singing. But the crowing doesn’t help and that bothers the man, so he takes care of it. One evening, he and his girlfriend eat a delicious rooster stew, with pointy red peppers, aubergine, courgette, and potatoes. They sprinkle plenty of salt and pepper on the dish and enjoy a few glasses of red wine after. They hold hands and whisper ‘I love you’, and move into the bedroom, where their bones contort, crackle, dislocate. A week after winter comes, she moves in.

*

‘Morning,’ she says one day, and he’s pleased she’s found the strength to get up early. ‘I’ll go and freshen up.’ She combs her hair looking at herself in the large bathroom mirror and keeps combing until she disentangles all the knots and worries in her head. She decides it’s time for a haircut, and after she is done cutting, she takes a long time analysing the strands surrounding her feet.

This hair came from me. It’s mine, she thinks. Is this the best I can do? My cells have been producing life and now there’s this dead tissue on the floor and nobody will cry for it. Is this all? She places her hands on her belly, yearning to feel movement. It is impossible. Her womb is empty and dry, a candied fruit that can feed no children, only the hopes of a desperate man who is waiting. I want the courage to tell him. She stares at her reflection and the large, blue veins around her eyes remind her of caterpillars. The day feels exhausting already, so she takes a nap on the velvet couch in the living room.

She dreams of her body pumping with life. She is laid down by the old ladies of her hometown and allows them to take care of everything. She sweats and shakes with pain and excitement, ready to meet the small person who has been living safe and quiet inside her. Her legs are open, and she grinds her teeth into calcium powder. Every bone and muscle in her body pushes him out, and out he is. The ladies clean the blood, the shit, and the placenta, and move the tired mother onto a comfortable bed.

When she wakes up, she finds herself covered with a fleece throw. There is no small person in the room, no exceptional act produced by her body, no ache between her legs. The urge is serious. She screams louder than in her dream.

*

He is much older than she is, but she never reminds him of that. It’s my fault, she thinks, he left his ex-wife pregnant. It’s my fault.

In their kitchen, it still smells of his old cat’s piss. What a tragic thing it was to put her down, poor Lucy! He makes his girlfriend a cup of Earl Grey tea and ask her to sit down with him. They sit on the sturdy chairs between the dark wood cabinets filled with stacks of plates and bowls, jars of mashed vegetables and jams, sweets, condiments that have been in there for over ten years, a few bottles of extra-virgin oil, cans of mushrooms and beans, bags of nuts, seeds, salt, sugar, and a box of eggs (the eggs are rotten, but you can’t tell until you break them and the smell hits you).

            ‘Is there anything we should talk about?’ he asks. He smiles.

            ‘Yes, but I don’t have the strength to say it,’ she says.

            ‘It’s okay. You can tell me anything.

She tells him everything she’s been worried about, and he bends in front of her, to kiss her knees and hold her hands. She falls into his arms, sobbing and then laughing, and crying hysterically. He understands and kisses her wet lips. She opens her mouth, and her silver tongue swirls into his. They kiss until spring arrives.

*

Spring comes and washes away the mould on the outside of their house. It’s still cold, but they wrap themselves in each other’s limbs and then in a pile of thick quilts. The trees grow dense, and the cicadas announce a yellow moon.

‘Have you ever seen a yellow moon before?’ she asks. He hasn’t, so they walk outside, into nature, to watch the sky expanding. Violent thunder paints the moon in purple and gold. The leaves break tenderly from their stems, heavy with rain. In front of their eyes, there is a spectacle of light and colour, then the rain turns torrential and they go back inside.

‘I think this is it,’ he says, and brings her three white candles.

She lights them and sings:

Dear Moon, I call upon your power,

amniotic fluid around the sweet meat of

my warm and swollen womb, with life

right here with the others

to hurt for the first time.

The account of a moth mother III

Signs you are more moth than woman, but still a woman (and what to do next):

this body of yours might not be entirely yours. can you hear anyone speaking inside your head? who is she? what does she say? even if you hear her do not listen to her. this is your body now, you own it. you thought you’re going to stay only for the first week, then the first month, but now you’re staying

you sleep in the day, resting on a soft mattress in a dark bedroom. you wake up a little, maybe cry for your mother, then return to your deep sleep until dusk. welcome to this new dimension. still, you’re not sure, but you’re flowering. wait

when you touch yourself and put your fingers inside, you take them out covered in nectar. taste yourself. see? I am never wrong about these things

Annulet, Blair’s mocha, crimson speckled, dark bordered beauty, Essex emerald, feathered gothic, gypsy moth, heat rivulet, July belle, Kentish glory, light orange underwing, marbled clover, northern rustic, oak processionary, purple thorn, riband wave, scarlet tiger, true lover’s knot, vaporeur, welsh clearwing, yellow horned. one for almost each letter, but there are many others. go and see for yourself

your mother is the moon. she always feeds her nocturnal children. her heart is the size of Betelgeuse or some other red giant, burning energy. we are gathering around the moon every night. motte, motti, mot. you must join us at the big event. our mother awaits

the man you’re sharing your bed with must think you’re a feral woman, nocturnal animal. on all those nights when you escape let him think you’re wild. this is our secret, don’t tell anyone, they might not like it

waxing gibbous, then full moon. our mother will be there to greet us. we will all join together. the world is dark already and we’ll make it lighter

a week from Friday, hear my call. you must prepare yourself, these are exciting times for all moth women

The account of a moth mother II

I wasn’t born in the woods to be afraid. I know some things to be sacred, like being loved by a Romanian woman.

My body is burning with the desire to see my sisters again. The absence of their scent is making my heart sore. The last time I saw my darlings it was on my mother’s birthday. The sky was light blue, emptied of clouds. Mother’s brown eyes were wide open with joy, contoured by black eyeliner. She cried charcoal tears when we started singing for her, and my sisters and I kissed her wet lashes and sat her down, to bless her. We made a crown of wildflowers plucked from her garden and put it on her head and gathered in a circle around her, chanting ‘Regină, fii binecuvântată, căci noi suntem deja avându-te pe tine.’ We flexed our backs as if we were metamorphosing into serpents, allowing her eyes to follow us and control us like a Medusa would do with her snakes. I wish I could be under her kind spell right now, but I’m comforted by the thought of my skeleton being fractured soon by her long-yearned-for hug.

When I see my mother and sisters again, I will say to them ‘You have no idea how empty the streets in this town are without Romanian iele bringing light into this still life.’

The account of a moth mother

My mother was a moth before she was a woman. In her short life as a moth, she met my father after a night of storms. She followed him day and night. She knew she couldn’t have him unless she became one of his kind, with hands and legs and a mouth with which she could kiss or whisper soothing words. So, she found this young woman who she entered through the nose and expanded inside of, until she became one with her. Soon after, my mother married my father and she birthed me. The woman who the vessel belonged to remained there, tucked in a corner of the skull. Mother felt her presence manifesting inside the body on rare occasions—a few times, at night, Mother found herself not in her bed, but wandering outside people’s houses, peeking inside, sobbing whilst she watched children sleeping. There was one time when the woman sharing that body with my mother tried to drown some children living across the street by forcing their heads into a sink full of water. Eventually, the woman gave up, as she had figured my mother was stronger, and she hasn’t made her presence felt ever since.