By, Becky Tipper
From Mom Egg Review Vol. 11 “Mother Tongue” Issue
We talked a lot about eating you in those early days. You were made of apricots and berries and soft new bread and cotton candy, your tiny nose like a chickpea. How could we not want to consume you?
We weren’t the first, of course. Saturn, god of time, devoured his own children. Although in his case he ate them to undo them, to reel back the unfurling inevitability of what they would become. To bring time to a halt. We didn’t want to undo you; we simply wanted to savor how sweet you were to the lips and the mouth. It seemed the only sensible way to love you.
Back then, I knew you through my mouth more than I ever expected to: pressing my kisses on you, sliding strands of your dark hair through my lips (your hair glossy and strange as a baby horse). I nibbled at your edges, murmuring how edible you were.
I remember how, later, you learned the word edible and rolled it on your tongue. For a time, you asked of each thing we encountered, “Mama, is that edible?” relishing that you could slice the world in a new way, drawing a line between the parts of it we might eat and the rest (paper, candles, certain mushrooms, stones, and people).
I remember too, when you learned to crawl how you’d squeal with glee when I chased you on my hands and knees, and I’d warn, “I’m going to eat that baby!” And then when I caught you, I’d feast on your tummy with kisses. You know, even now, I’d eat you in one bite if I could.
And then I remember one time – it’s something I’ve never told anyone before. Picture the scene:
You are nursing and there is only us in the whole mute night. When you are done, I wipe a drop of my milk from your chin and hold it on my fingertip. Just one drop, carefully, as if it is both sacred and poisonous. No one can see me; even you are asleep on my lap now. I open my mouth and ready my tongue as if for the fall of a snowflake.
I bring it to my tongue – this food that my own body has made – and it tastes of what it is like to be you, before language dawns and crashes into your little life, where cries and milk are the closest your mouth comes to speech. It tastes of love, of apricots, of ice cream, of eons of other women and babies awake, half asleep, under stars, under skies, under cover, under fire. It tastes of life before I had words for anything, before I could even have told you who I was.
And I think to myself, if anything has the power to stop time, it’s this.
Becky Tipper’s short fiction and non-fiction has appeared in Literary Mama, Mom Egg Review, The Bridgeport Prize Anthology, and Scraps: the National Flash Fiction Day anthology 2013. She currently lives in Maine with her husband and two children. You can find her at: thebookflea.com