She didn’t emerge into this world from lust, or love, or a high so high that the ages were rocked and the waters were made to run clear once again so that generations forward could remember this and bow in reverence to the soil.
No, the women I come from grew corn. They grew wheat. They grew pigs and tomatoes on square plots of land so flat and plain that a man could lose all sense of north if an East wind didn’t force the sun below the horizon each night.
These women seasoned their kettles well, with buttermilk and lard that made their children practical. Made them judicious, appropriate. Toes squished into black laced up shoes aching to be barefoot, corsets squishing ribs into warped triangles.
I enter their kitchen but all I smell is the corn and pork and dried bones of their men. No spice, no salt.
I enter their parlours where they thighs knit together, so close and withholding and bound and secret that the universe would explode in relief if they dared to sigh. Where hardened fingers spin lace for peplums, embroidered for their daughters in a series of tiny knots using only a sharp, tiny needle.
I enter their bedrooms sparse with matrimonial beds split into two, but too short to ever hold my own long legs. There’s no smell of sex or roses or beeswax candles...not even a whiff of something rank.
These women, these old crones of mine who birthed cold grandfathers and terrified fathers--they lick spoons with hairy upper lips and tongues dry, like soured milk on a plate. They kiss their children with frigid, puckered lips and hide the honey. These women hold their husbands in their boney claws and when they hold them in their mouths, they bite down hard. These women deconstruct life by night while they cultivate food by day.
And so I reach. Back down my spine, tapping into who I’m born of, praying for a sliver of light, a glimmer of magic. It’s impossible, like a day-time nap where the sun streams through a curtainless window, forcing day-blindness inside my dream, and I fumble to see straight. Fumble down, fumble back, fumble out, but never in.
There’s nothing I can do to reshape these women. I cannot kiss their children. I cannot hold their faces with my soft hands. I cannot make love to their men or show sugarless knitting circles the very TRUTH of ecstasy and rapture.
These women have never seen the Ocean.
I am the daughter of a mother’s mother’s mother who was born to give milk. I try to understand, but I am not these women.
I am the daughter of a mother’s mother’s mother who was born to give stew from a heavy, seasoned kettle and honey from the trees out back, and to ooze milk from my own loins no less than bone-deep. I pick the raspberries and keep the leaves, suckle the juice from life as I hold my child head. I try to fix and salve and adjust their pain, but I see only Love next to this salty shore, the only one that has ever felt like home.