My Waters Below My Hills.
Give up your waters woman, become but a husk so that you are remade from your dust.
When I was little, I had a series of spells that would plague me at night. I would choke on my own breathe, until it felt like my body has closed itself up to world around me. Usually happening between the moments when I was just about to wake up from sleep, my body would seize as if I was stuck on the threshold of dreaming and waking.
Here I would have visions as my eyes welled up with tears and my mouth opened in silent gasps, screaming out for the deaths that are yet to come in my family. Until my parents would come rushing through the doors, and I would gulp down honey water to choke me awake with the sudden sweetness.
The sensation of losing your breath is as if you are becoming nothing, swimming through nothing, seeing nothing. Slowly.
When I was very little, I almost died. One of my lungs collapsed at night while I was sleeping, and liquid began to fill my throat till I could barely gulp down air. My mother heard me gasping in my cradle beside her bed, and rushed me to the Emergency Room.
Last night, I couldn’t stop drinking water and then expelling my waters until the flow became crystal clear. There came a knowing in my body that it was time for another passage into the world below and back. I filled my copper basin that have collected the ashes of my ceremonies for the past months with cold water from the tap, and sitting it in a triangle of wooden staves, floated a white candle in its depths.
My body heats, and morphs, and changes as my skin transforms serpentine, grow scales, wings of white feathers sprouting from my back, my breathing becomes none existent and this time I let it. For I know it is the mothers sitting with me.
I fall asleep to the light of my white candle, my fetch swimming through the oceans in my soul, waiting for the dream to come, to incubate as so many of us have done in temples and cells and caves and arbours in all the days before and after us.
You may see yourself swimming down a lake or well. You will see yourself pass through more layers or doors than you have ever thought possible, usually involving an increasing sense of claustrophobia or pressure as you get deeper and deeper. Eventually you will find yourself very close to the heart of the spiral, the ‘eye of the storm’ where things are weaved and unweaved. You will need to pass through and to do so you will need to be able to let go of everything of you that is mortal. You will also be stripped of the illusion of ‘up’ and ‘down’ and come to realize that in travelling ‘down to the bottom’ you have also reached the height of heights and are now in the stars.
- Lee Morgan’s A Deed Without A Name, page 133, from the chapter “The Water Below The Hills”.
As I woke up in the world of sleeping, I found myself inside the houses of my mothers. First I was in a small cottage by the Bayous of Louisiana, Maria making gumbo and fish head stew with black bread. The scent of her spices fill the tiny house with memories I didn’t know I had. She sprinkles a powder into my bowl of stew and whispers a prayer I can’t hear. “Time to meet your maker”, she says to me, and I think it’s my time to die.
“Not like that baby”, she responds, “You got more than one maker”.
I take the bowl into my hands, and as I take my first dip and bit, the scenes around me shift.
Now I am on the banks of a river, the earth yellow with minerals and nutrients rubbing warm dust beneath me. Around me are tents filled with women, they point to the rushing waters crashing against the jagged rocks, and tell me to get closer or I’ll never swim to shore. The bitter waters splash against my face, tasting of green things and ash. I am stripped down into my scales and fins, and dipping into the waters, my vision goes black.
When I can see again, I am in my middle school classroom in China. Before me is stretched rolls and rolls of paper, and I am spending an eternity writing out line after line. My middle school teacher, stern, manipulative, who in one breath can weep in front our parents for our supposed failures and then scream and hit us with her ruler behind their backs, stood looming over me. I pick up my pen, and begin to write as I always have in the past, never stopping until the alarm clock wakes me up from my slumber.
Time to meet your maker baby.
Is she my maker? I wonder to myself, this woman who was my mother for most days when my own mother left me there in that institution each morning, and came to pick me up late at night. Was she my maker? This stern, cruel woman who’s images blurs with that of my mother’s, with that of the many teachers before her who attempted to drill into my head a mother tongue I was suppose to know but could never quiet get the handle of. I feel my arms and run my hands over the cruel lines left behind by her stings and pinches and slaps and wrenching.
I look at the rough, thin paper under my hands, my pen scratching out symbols and characters I can no longer remember the meanings of.
No sun shone through the windows, everything was dark except for that single fluorescent light that shone above our heads.
Her shadow creeps through every corner of the wall, running against the lines of chalkboards that surround us, imposing their dark shadows against my body.
All those years of repetition, of stolen consent, of silenced voices. I did something I didn’t know I could do, and had never done in previous dreams like the one I am having now, in that claustrophobic classroom with that imposing teacher.
I put down my pen, I walk up to her, I look her in the eye, and I say, firmly, quietly, “no”.
And I walk away.
She weeps as the alarm sounds and my eyes open to the sun streaming through my window, cascading onto the sea of plants lining my room.
Give up your waters woman. I did. Become but a husk so you can be remade from your dust. Was I ever a mother? Was I ever in past lives a woman with a uterus who didn’t need to hide behind the masculinity she was assigned at birth because of her genitalia? Did I ever feel the sensation of pushing life out from between the lips of my legs, feeling a piece of me slip out of my body, into my arms? Or given away to another? Or take herbs poisonous to this life suckling in my womb so that I wouldn’t need to do this?
I look to the mothers of my line, and they gently move my head to look forward into the future.
Some things do not need to be carried with you for all the lives you will live love.
The spirit of a child I didn’t know I had been carrying within my belly laughs and gurgles with joy.
Backstory. When I was nine years old my parents told me that we were going back to China for a summer vacation. After packing our bags and taking that arduous fourteen hour plane ride back home, we began looking for elementary schools in my area a week after we landed. We didn’t come back to Canada for five years. I was placed in local elementary schools with a series of abusive homeroom teachers. They were the mothers that my own mother refused to protect me from. They placed their hands without my consent onto my body, their fingers digging into my mind against my will.
Shaping me, gaslighting me, manipulating me into the perfect little brain washed, teacher fearing, government fearing student that the communist regime in China desired from every family at the time.
I could never say no.
These past few nights have been my beginnings and continuations in correcting that mistake of the past.