You, who have bowed your head, shed another season of antlers at my feet, for years you fall asleep to the lullabies of dolls, cotton-stuffed and frayed, ears damp with sleep and saliva, scalps knotted with yarn, milk-breath, and yawns. Birth is a torn ticket stub, a sugar cone wrapped in a paper sleeve, the blackest ice. It has been called irretrievable, a foreign coin, the moon’s slip, showing, a pair of new shoes rubbing raw your heel. I lose the back of my earring and bend the metal in such a way as to keep it fastened to me. In the universe where we are strangers, you kick with fury, impatient as grass. I have eaten all your names. In this garden you are blue ink, baseball cap wishbone, pulled teeth, wet sand, hourglass. There are locks of your hair in the robin’s nest and clogging the shower drain. You, who are covered in feathers, who have witnessed birth give birth to death and watched death suck her purple nipple. You long for a mother like death’s mother, want to nurse until drunk you dream of minnows swimming through your ears—their iridescence causing you to blink, your arms twitching. Even while you sleep I feed you.
When I rose into the cradle of my mother’s mind, she was but a girl, fighting her sisters over a flimsy doll. It’s easy to forget how noiseless I could be spying from behind my mother’s eyes as her mother, bulging with a baby, a real-life Tiny Tears, eclipsed the doorway with a moon. We all fell silent. My mother soothed the torn rag against her chest and caressed its stringy hair. Even before the divergence of girl from woman, woman from mother, I was there: quiet as a vein, quick as hot, brimming tears. In the decades before my birthday, years before my mother’s first blood, I was already prized. Hers was a hunger that mattered, though sometimes she forgot and I dreamed the dream of orange trees then startled awake days or hours later. I could’ve been almost anyone. Before I was a daughter, I was a son, honeycomb clenching the O of my mouth. I was a mother— my own—nursing a beginning.