Feeding stillness with life

–Do you have the rabbit legs?

–Yes, I do. It wasn’t easy. The rabbits were running very fast.

–How about the mort twine?

–Yes, one, from the old man selling spring onion and tomatoes at the corner of our house.

–That should do. Have you been followed?

–No. I have the other thing as well.

–What other thing? Oh, that other thing. Good girl.

–I want him to love me.

–He will. You know what to say?

–Yes, mother.

–And when to say it?

–Yes, mother.

–Alright, then. Everything goes in the metal box, and then under the oak tree. Tomorrow night. Not the menstrual blood. That goes in his stew.

–Yes, mother.

*

I now have his head. It looks rather odd without its hands, feet, and torso. I placed it in our garden, where the birds usually pause to take a deep rest on a warm afternoon or to hide from the rain. Despite the head’s decomposing state, there is a glowing aspect to it. It reminds me less of my man when he was alive and more of the animal craniums that one finds in the depths of the forest if one has the time to search for something like that. I caress carefully the skin left on my man. I wish I could sing to him, what an act of love you’ve offered me, bless it be, bless it be’ and I start singing, surprising myself, for I’ve never sung before. There in my garden I promise to remain worthy of my new life, and the birds flying around must agree with me, which explain their continuous clamour.

There is a small forest growing inside the cranium. The cranium is embroidered with tulip petals, wings of moths and butterflies, pages of old books smelling of vanilla glue and mildew, curled yellow nails, and long strands of black hair, hair that is not exactly hair, but a new and unnamed type of flora—the result of excellence and dedication. It should bother me, but its miasma is comforting—pungent, similar to a sweaty scalp.

Everything inside the skull is dead tissue, except for the pink lump which has the tiniest heart I have ever heard beating. I have spent so many of my days putting her together—yes, it’s a her, I’ve made sure of that—and now I’m waiting to see signs of movement. It’s too soon to tell how long this could take. At this moment, I can only hear her breathing if I move my ear closer, but I’m not sure if it’s actual breathing I hear or simply the soft wind guiding nature to feed this still life.

Inside my house, I inhale deep, over and over again, the smoke coming from an incense stick, praying for forgiveness and perhaps for a cure. Inside my flesh there’s what I feared the most—a visitor that has found its way into me when I wasn’t paying attention. This is not the product of my imagination, for I saw her once, six months ago, when I woke up during the night due to overheating. The sheet under me was so damp, I thought I’d wet myself, so I went to the bathroom to freshen up. In the large mirror is where I saw her for the first and last time, or parts of her—sharp fangs, long yellow nails, black hair. I have wondered since why I did not react in any way. I only stood there, unblinking. I knew who she was, or rather what she was, and by then there was nothing I could do to chase her away. If only she wouldn’t live in my womb.

I have not thought about her in some time. I do not feel entirely well—what does she want this time? Strangely, I can hear the wind asking me to come out, to go and check the pink lump—it’s still there, inside my man’s skull and all seems calm for now. Be strong, I say assuming the lump can hear me, as I face the struggle of being alone with my visitor for a great number of days. I must learn how to do this by myself, until the new life is old and wise enough to take care of me.

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

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.