Woman looking at water
Photo by Josh Rocklage on Unsplash

I smell my mother beneath her fur. Her face is of an animal, covered in long hair, but her eyes still have that lazy, soft indolence. It’s a new moon night, the night she often chooses for her transformation. I light three candles on the windowsill of her room. One for the life that is escaping her–one for the life to come, one for the endurance when she is in between bodies.

My mother has said that she cannot stay in one body. It suffocates her. Every few months or so, she disappears into the copse of trees behind our house and returns in a different body. I have let several wild animals in, assuming it’s her. But now I am better at recognizing. During the day when she is in the house, she stays in her room. At night, I let her out and sometimes follow her into the thicket. A creek runs west of the house. From a distance, I see she is sitting at the edge of the water, her head bowed as if looking at her reflection. It’s strange to feel she is the flesh and blood I come from. Bloomed from the center of her belly which is slender then bulk, a heft of hair, inside which all light ends.

There are days we sit next to each other and watch the evening tint the rooftops briefly crimson. And I remember what she said to me when she was still human. You came in the middle of the night, like a rendezvous, a secret. I was panting in my sleep with pain. I could not separate you from me and that attachment made me miserable, unrecognizable.

A child is from the peanut-size womb you didn’t know could swell like a globe, with rivers, valleys, grasslands of skin, she continued. A child is the farthest depth of the ocean you’ll ever reach. A child is all the fibers, bones, and muscles from your one desire to make something unique. A child born is the death of self, a previous you.

When my mother is gone for days, I sleep in her room—locks of hair on the floor, mud, stray leaves, and branches, surrounded by the discomfort she is to herself, to me. I smell her on me, a musk of stale grass and carnivorous saliva and I try to wash her away, but she lingers in the sloping curves of my shoulders, like a secret other. At night I lie alone, my fingertips reaching out in the dark and touching something big, furry, a heart heaving and I am relieved until I press it hard only to feel the ground.

My mother is a changing creature. My mother is torso, head, and bones, wool, and straw, washing away, bobbing downstream. My mother is a pair of eyes watching her reflection, thinking it’s someone else.

Scroll to Top