She showed me the hole in her thigh where she’d gouged out some of her flesh to feed her dying father. I made a fist inside the hole. Her blood filmed over it, sheltering it like a seed, hilting it beside her hip. She slept on a junior twin mattress in a hallway where the only source of light were the silver fillings of her teeth, her thighbone exposed. I think there’s mercury in these fillings, she said, I think they didn’t know it was poisonous then. They’re so soft I can’t eat anything but mushrooms of steam, your frothing. She was several millennia old and I was nineteen. I asked her to beat me. I wanted her teeth jutting into my thigh, sheets of my meat clapping in her mouth, my earlobes clutched like coins between her teeth. The most she ever did was slap me. Once on each cheek. My shirt flaked off my back. My legs hooked her shoulders, reining her in. I was surprised when she did it. I thought you were supposed to be merciful, I said. But sometimes mercy means you destroy something, she said to me, like that tree outside this building that got stabbed so bad that it needed to be amputated at the root, translated into ash. Or like, I said, the way you fed your father. Forget him, she said, no sacrifice is worth becoming. I lowered my face into the bowl of her thigh-wound. I lapped at her bone like a lake of milk. Her veins vined up my cheek. I noticed that she liked to wear long, opaque skirts to disguise the moon crater in her thigh. I asked how come none of the statues ever showed her legs, and she said, because I wandered the world skirting all of them. I don’t want strangers looking inside me. In the dim of the hallway, I begged her to knot her skirts around my neck and lower her toe into my throat like a fishhook. I spat into the hole in her thigh and filled it silver, a surface I stirred with my finger, a mirror I robed in, shuddering its skin over my shoulders.
She administered her light to my holed thigh, scabbing it with a butter of moonbeam. I slept in several cups of her sweat, which she used to pickle planets into plums. She could sway anyone with her salt. She asked how I got my scar and I said it was from dropping an apple knife, which she pretended to believe. I had to tug her everywhere, since she preferred a life without verbs. I was inside my mother for two years, no one could move me, she said. Finally they had to vacuum me out with an industrial machine, and I had no hair at all for many years, hundreds. Her forehead was candied like a lightbulb and could sear the hair off my crotch. For years she worked in laser hair removal, using only the tips of her fingers to traumatize follicles into a fetal state of slumber. Fucking the moon is not what you think. I could only see her face indirectly, by looking into a mirror in the corner of her apartment, by standing next to her above a puddle, by filling her palms with brine and asking her to look down. Her fist inside me was planetary. She liked to translate her legs into silver scissors and cut down my hair and gather it into a night. All nights are made of donated hair, she said, usually I have to use the dead. She had to knot each individual hair to one of her toes so that the strands swung free as blades, and then she could ascend and curtain the sky. I ate the hair while climbing to her, the strands collecting in the bell of my belly, fattening into garter snakes, and when I reached her feet, she stomped on me. Stay on your knees, she said, so I did. She rode my mouth to foam, wove a net of snot-light over my nose, told me to swallow when she said. Pearls pitted my throat, stringing through my intestines, a rope of moons coiled in my belly.
She had pre-arthritic hands after molding us from mud. The ear canals are especially taxing, she said, and require an extreme attention to detail. Some holes are more intricate than others, she said, with her fingers inside me. She wore braces on her hands that reined her fingers, and I liked to feel the plastic blading, loved to hear her fingers jingling as she gripped my hips. I asked her to kick me in the belly, where snake-thick hairs reared inside me, scaled with thumbnails of light. But she told me she was unable to do harm to snakes, having once been born one, and the place she preferred to bruise me was beneath my breasts, the bitterest pith of my skin. She touched me like she was making me, like I was a memory of her mother. That’s technically correct, she said, I did make you. I remember it, too. I remember dabbling with legs, yanking out weeds and wicking them into yours. I remember the mushroom caps of your knees, the dung I smeared into a mouth, your waist I whittled down with a string. I’m glad you’ve gained it back. At night, while she was asleep beside me, I watched her spine translate itself into a snake and buck beneath her skin, sometimes breaking it, sometimes slithering out of a slit I made with a thumbnail. It curled around my fist. Like all reptiles, she was incapable of generating her own body heat and frequently mugged my blood of its steam. Shivering, I squatted beneath her single floor lamp or did jumping jacks in her absence or turned on her gas stove and hovered my hands above it. But I forgave her, because she had invented me, and because she had the foresight to hinge my elbows and hoist hands at the ends of my arms and differentiate my thumbs and draft hallways into my skull and clearly mark the exits for my memories. I asked her why she gave me this need, these knees, and she showed me. Her long braid was tined like a snake’s tongue, and at night it nudged inside me. In the morning, she laid an ache in my palm like a copper fork and instructed me to eat with it. Before she left me to author another three seas and annotate the earth with seventeen piss rivers, she returned to me my heat, roasting each of my organs on a spit before sewing them to the outside of my skin, saddlebags sullen with stones. Foregrounding my mouth was the gift she grafted into me, the first given to my kind, a pair of fangs, pear-sweet. To skin any sun, she said. To slobber onto the sky and make me a morning. She told me she invented teeth when one day she saw a snake swallow a stone, its shape mutating during its passage, sanded into a seed. She waited for the snake to shit it out, and then she grasped the stone in her own mouth and shattered it with her jaw and melted the shards down for our molars. I told her that long ago I’d swallowed the moon. It had elbowed aside my bones as I digested it, rendering me flaccid as a sock of light. She said she did not design me to ingest planetary bodies, but that it thrilled her to observe what I was capable of. How many forms I could forfeit.