This is how clay becomes flesh: dirt and grit clumping with saliva, bits of sand wedged between gum and tooth. In my mother’s mouth: her palate alive with humus: a crush of chalk threading down her throat: and somewhere deep within her gut: a Galatea, milk white, translucent: a creature she’ll bring together from pulverized stone. She’s sure all desire begins with me: my unborn, indiscriminate taste, my unwieldy appetite for handfuls of ash and soil: and when I’m born, though she gives me a name plain and utile as toothpaste, she insists on calling me Magpie: and how she’s right: when I’m first caught filling my cavernous maw with paint chips, plaster, coffee grounds pulled from the trash, my father reassures her: this is the work of all infants: to hold the world inside them, piece by piece: to turn each sliver about on the tongue: a shape in a tangram: a code the child’s mouth cracks. But when my mother finds me, years later: a toddler, plucking flies from the window: the curse slithers out of her: freak: as though she’s never enjoyed this comfort: as though she doesn’t remember reaching for more.
From The Body is No Machine by Jennifer Perrine. Copyright © 2007 by Jennifer Perrine. Reprinted with permission of New Issues Poetry & Prose.