Mother grinds me into existence with her mortar and pestle

Mother grinds me into existence with her mortar and pestle, the same way she used to grind paste from the flesh of her garden in order to heal my grandfather’s wounds.

On the morning I was born, my mother yanked a spool of blood-red yarn out from within her stomach and tied one of its ends around my waist. I was her creation to claim, the paste which she had breathed life into, ground life into, spread out on her bedsheets and observed as it screamed for the first time.

Mother always reminds me of the red yarn tied around my waist, she claims that it connects our family to those who we love, no matter how far removed we’ve become. She claims that mother’s red yarn binds my family together so that we may still find each other, from now till forever.

I am on my knees this morning, throwing last night’s decisions out from my throat and into the garbage can. A piece of red yarn catches my front tooth and yanks it forward, uprooting it from my gum, tearing it out, shooting forward like a bullet from my gun, and I see my mother’s red yarn staring up at me. Lifeless. Unquestioning.


I pick it apart from the trash, place it back on my tongue, swallow it again, like Eucharist in the midst of Sunday service. It falls through my stomach like a rock, like Noah within the whale, I tell it “My body is not your prison. This is my mother’s greatest vision.” This body was made by my mother’s flesh, ground down to a paste, spread out on bloodied bedsheets, and born a blessing. It was taken from her gut, bound steady in lines of red yarn, holding it together. It has survived to suit nothing but itself.

There are times now when mother will tell me the story of how I was born. Of how she reached her hand down into her throat, grasped a waiting chunk of her soul, removed it out from between her swollen lips and ground it down into something breathing with her mortar and pestle.

And as I lay there, screaming in those bedsheets, blood soaking my face and surrounding me, she named me, offering me the chance to rename myself should I ever see the need to. I have not yet seen the need to.

“Mother,” I say to her, “tell me the story one more time.”

Ian Powell-Palm is a writer, poet, and musician currently living in Bozeman, Montana. You can find out more about his poetry and his future readings at his Facebook page, Powell-Palm Poetry.

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