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Gathered, Fragmented

by Tara Isabel Zambrano

I wake up in my mother’s mouth. Her wisdom teeth gone, red hollows. She doesn’t know I am here. I sit on the tip of her tongue, watch the words slip in and out of her thin lips, one of them my name, like a meteor in my belly. I stick it to my chest, it’s slippery, so I slide down her throat and get drawn in the chambers of her heart, sticky blood, and the familiar drum roll. It’s an organ of faith. There’s a backroom, a stash of secrets, letters she knows by heart. I go through them line by line, spend the rest of my day in a haze, imagining her Persian lover, her mouth on his Farsi-clad lips, him sucking her like a smooth candy, her fluid on his tongue like glaze, like aftertaste.

In my mother’s head, I fold my legs to let her thoughts kick by: lunch options, taking my brother to basketball practice, my sister for ballet, pick up dry cleaning, groceries, stop by auto repair shop. There is mess, overlap, a detailed flow chart of contingencies, the noise is deafening. I touch the fluffy, white mass, it makes a soft, hollow sound. My mother lets out a strange laugh and the wilderness of synapses around me light up, an unanticipated pleasure.

So far, I am undetected.

The path below her lungs is snug. Her organs like red oak in full bloom. My mouth plastered with her fat. Scriptures of nerves and bones. Angles and corners to reflect a little light and happiness in there. It’s where my siblings and I have sprouted from a small knot of cells, her clean, fierce love, swift and easy. Her womb is a mummy, gauzed in prayer and patience, its hands stretched out, an old teardrop with round, soft ears. I waddle over and whisper, I want to thank the egg that hatched me once.

I am on my mother’s thigh, her skirt has always been longer than her knees. She never shaves. I press the hair-dusted skin. She looks around and draws in a breath, I may have left a breadcrumb trail in her thoughts. She starts singing in Farsi. Her face tired and beautiful, eyes glossy, the gray in her braid like a wide ribbon, her body, held together by muscles and flesh, thousands of nerves under her skin, gathered, fragmented, all wrapped in her sensuous, wounded voice. I climb around her neck and back in her mouth, she is warm. And down, down, I fall, my feet anticipating every dip, every curve.

I know I’ll return with a pair of milk teeth, a crisp Farsi tongue. I know she’ll wait.

Author's Note

Lately, most of my writing has centered around motherhood. I have been fascinated with the idea of being a knot of consciousness, an observer in my mother’s body, listening, understanding her, connecting to her fertility, the birth of her children, their growth and all that she has lost during her life.

Tara Isabel Zambrano works as a semiconductor chip designer. Her work has been published in Tin House Online, The Southampton Review, Slice, Triquarterly, Yemassee, Passages North and others. Her full-length flash collection, Death, Desire And Other Destinations, is upcoming in September'2020 with Okay Donkey Press. She lives in Texas.

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