The Mother’s Body Must be Cleaved in Two

This is the first and only lesson. That a woman may die

at the hands of her children. In the Enuma Elish, for instance,


the world is molded from the body of an ocean

goddess, Tiamat. The she-dragon mourned a fresh water god,


but what can correct the loss of the beloved? Tiamat’s son

beat her skull in with a club to form the earth and heavens,


split her corpse down the spine like a glistening fish.

This is consistent with what I know of the cruelty of children.


When I was a girl, my mother removed her reproductive organs,

cut out a tumor as large and feathered as the inside of a grapefruit.


Even as a fetus I think I was spinning her uterus into a knot

of stars. Tunneling a path through the city, I still feed on her body, another


maggot in the goddess-carcass. So if I say I want to wrap my shoulders

in a canopy of my mother’s skin, really I mean, please, let me be


unlonely. Even when I can’t see you, I’m looking your way


and below, the crust of the planet tilts as though, half-formed,

a foot stretches against the plates. At one point, my mother tells me,


When I was in New York, I thought I was going crazy.

I was pregnant, carrying your brother home from surgery


I don’t say I fucked a stranger recently or that between positions,

he slipped off the condom, which perhaps, is the easiest method


to expand the body into an ocean, then a serpent, then a corpse.

Nothing can correct the loss of my beloved on earth. A cold


wind blew up my skirt on the walk home and I didn’t know

if I stepped in something or if the rind of the city was always rot


and citrus. I kept wanting to slip from my skin, pry off my thigh

beads of semen with a knife, stop the whiteness from worming in.


M’Bilia Meekers is the winner of a Marble Faun Poetry Award and an Anselle M. Larson Academy of American Poets Prize. Meekers is a Cave Canem fellow whose work has previously appeared or is forthcoming in the New Yorker, Guernica, and Poet Lore. She lives in Brooklyn, NY and is a poetry MFA student at NYU.