The Mythologies of Mother | Jai Hamid Bashir

In your living room, a sacred ordered space where everything has history in placement, I found an atlas. It was arranged next to the plate of cut apples and figs left by my Father. Ringing around the edge of the plate’s pattern, in the way you told me Lilith must have had curls sewing down to the v-lines in her nakedness. That is why and where Eve, without a shiver, eyes open, was stitched. Eve still holds the fire, you told me. She holds the fire in the softness of her palms like Durga. Like the boxes of matchsticks and thick wick candles you never let run out, or leave your bedside table. Even when I told you that in America we often don’t have electrical shortages. You would pace around the hallways after midnight, tending to the energy. Looking for the light that had never gone out. You never allowed me to have a shortage of coiling narratives on the origin of women like us, did you? From golden eggs dropped like marbles out of God’s pocket, to the foam in bottles from which I drew bubble wands. You would press your mouth in circles and teach me to use all of my lungs. Lungs, as you told me, that were made from the clean salty tissue of trout, sea bass, salmon, or when Vishnu had decided to walk palm to palm onto the loam, and stretch his vertebrae. One of the possibilities was that I came from your forehead, pulled out from the thick and bloody folds of you.

We haven’t met, but I know you. I’ve seen you in the supermarket as you check your grocery list to see what you will feed your families. Crossing things off with a soft graphite pencil that you hold in your caffeinated hands. You have spoken to me in Spanish as our mirroring brown palms met and you handed me tamales. I have seen you at the finish line. I clap for you. I cheer for you. The crowns of your gums shiny and smooth, your dark forehead shining with joy. I smelt your Chanel No. 5 still lingering in the air at your funeral as we buried you after the breast cancer. I’ve heard you slump down like sand because you think you are not good enough. I’ve heard you shrieking, “I am dying, I am dying” in the junior high locker room at your underwear stained with blood. I’ve been in awe of your hips, your breasts, and your swan neck. I thank-you for the food you pick for me. I thank-you for the food you cook for me. Thank-you for your strength. Your vulnerability is courageous. I’ve heard you in the letters you wrote to yourself when you were losing your mind and stuffing your drawers full of the wings of language that have given America flight. I know where you are, Amelia. You are my womxn forever, Sojourner. You are a womxn, you are. You are the bananas and dance in my breakfast, Josephine. I’ve seen you as you drag your legless body on the asphalt, clinging onto the car doors of wealthier and empty people. I cried with you on the dusty streets of Pakistan as they called you a “witch,” I still cry for you often. I love your heels. I love your ties. I love your shaved head. I love your covered hair. I have read about you outside my textbooks. I have celebrated you on my own accord. You held my hand as I learned to walk. You were born a womxn, no questions asked, and I pray that you always find your doorstep, slide in the key, and never have to compromise your journeys due to fear.

I sat and chipped into an apple slice, feeling the weight of those leaves pressed between North America and Asia. I drew my hands over the longitude lines. Those that connect me from the Wasatch Mountains to you, somewhere out near the Alexandrian drawn lines out and over the Hindu Kush. I heard you are still growing with the power of monsoon muscles. You are always in the wrestling of sand and space. Somewhere near the gullies and lowlands where water pools and becomes the natural mud-bowl aquariums for webbed creatures. We are those animals, waiting in those ancient black lakes to become bipedal and magic. In my dreams, I have heard you let out monstrous bellows. Deeply glottal, and feminine, and I save you from Beowulf. I break his fingers, pushing them backwards towards his wrists, ram the end hard bone of my palm into his nostrils, and kill everyone in Heorot Hall myself. I won’t let you down, mother, this time.

I have seen you, with your partner of twenty years, kissing the softness of her spiderweb thin eyelids. I have heard you mimic the heartbeat of your children as you feed them with your sore breasts on the toilets of the fanciest restaurants. I’ve seen you lead people with the confidence and charisma of an evergreen that does not bend with the seasons. I know you, because you are me. I hear you. I see you. I love you. Celebrate you, you phenomenal, magical, and perfect womxn. And we will rise. Like the bubbling dough my mother made after working the hours everyday. And the spaceships we have yet to plant on Venus.

Jai Hamid Bashir is a Indo-Pakistani American poet from Salt Lake City. She is the recent winner of the Academy of American Poets Craig Arnold Memorial Prize, as well as the overall winner of the University of Utah Undergraduate Literary Conference.


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