By Noelle Carter
To be a woman is to be heavy, to know the elements, one by one, to return to the earth which first gave life, to feel its weight, and to come forth again.
A naiad is light and air in elusive flame. Her heart is bound to nothing and flies free. But Daphne does not run fast enough. Her flight only draws her pursuer. Her prayers to the river god are vain. Apollo warms wood into flesh. Bark becomes skin. Empty cells, her support, grow soft, tremble, and are infused with life.
Sometimes I still lift my hands skyward and can feel the wind in my leaves, but always, always, the weight of earth pulls me back, plants me in a mother’s bed. All matter attracts, but gravity has greater claim on mothers. I sink, deepen, bind with the earth. I eat earth, wrap myself in it. As minerals are drawn to me, nutrients are concentrated; my core is life.
My hand moves within me, fingers explore. My toes press my ribs as knees seek an exit that isn’t there. And I am not myself. One mind, two bodies inhabit the same space. My density increases. I stay closer to the ground, wishing for support, unable to tie my own shoes.
I swell like a mountain breaking free from a burning liquid state and cooling to the solid impenetrability used for landmarks. I am a behemoth longing for the buoyancy of water to carry my burden for a while.
As the center grows ever hotter, the edges cool; lapping energy turns to mud, then stone. I move slowly; my crust feels brittle.
Every morning, rising is more difficult. Only aching drives me from my bed. Until one day I am unable to leave it. Does each cell grunt and yell in effort as it becomes a house divided, the tiny, wordless cries for release unheard by me, their universe?
Alone within a room full of people, mitosis occurs. I am lifted, cut free, and given to myself.