Teen Mom Song
In her dreams, my mother is a spoon lifted to a child's mouth. She doesn't recognize his face, but knows the ache of his body. He is hers. Giving is the nectar that she holds, nourishing half-formed things. She is just as her own mother was, pregnant as a grave. Through iron and sweat, her form has become a papaya cut open, ornate with black curling pearls and orange-brown skin.
When she wakes, she is full, her stomach lined with time. In the bathroom, she spits up white blood. My mother is a conch shell. Us children will hear the ocean through her all of our lives. In the cracks of her neck we will taste salt and sand and what she has given up for us.
My mother imagines who has made a home inside of her. Some children are surprises, piercing
through skin without warning. But my mother knows that we have always been there, attached to
her rib bones and waiting. The human body is a work of science and witchcraft. When a baby is born, they are the evidence. Covered in slimy vernix, they are a blessed hue all their own. Blue-ish and putrid, craving ropes of sinew to work their gums on.
I have been a daughter since the sun started dying. I have been a daughter since the beginning of everything. When my mother gave birth to me, it was almost silent. I floated like a ghost away from her body, a birthmark she was starting to misplace.
She recognized me in the nursery from the naked stripe on my belly. Linea nigra, a black line. Her gift to me before I knew children to be undulations of a womb. Before I knew the word womb. Before I knew a body from a color. A mouth from just an empty space. Always yearning.
I come from women raised by the ocean, dancers and holders of hips giving enough to shield armies. We are born to be ready for this, to make homes from the markings on our thighs. The youngest always run to the sea, trying to escape sanded maternal burdens. I have sprinted since I first left my clothes rusted. But bulls outrun us every time. Pregnant and young, pregnant and too smart to not know any better. Pregnant and too kind to not give ourselves over to skulls unmolded.
All people are soft in the beginning. So, we expect this of mothers too. They must be knife and wet cotton all at once.
When I was born, I was weeks early. My mother believed she had more time, yet still, she forgave me. The way she saw it, she didn't have any other choice.
Brianne Allen is a writer of creative nonfiction and poetry from New York City. She was recognized as a Finalist by the National YoungArts Foundation in Creative Nonfiction for 2019. She has previous and forthcoming publications in the Huffpost, Rookie Magazine and Egalitarian Magazine.