Black against the sky the giant mothers
are whispering together in the moonlight –
one of which, the boniest, is mine.
She stuffs my ears with centipedes and millipedes,
she crams my little mouth with bones and tongues,
she pulls my nipples in and out and beats me
with mittens made of pigskin and blood.
We never kiss. We never even try.
We never talk. She’s taught me not to talk.
The things we never talk about are private.
She’s taught me not to want what I want.
She’s taught me not to hope – God forbid –
not to laugh, and not to cry in pain;
not to hear the cries of pain of others,
not to seek and not to find; she’s taught me
to know my place, which is complete darkness,
where things you touch are huge beyond belief
and when you walk you need to walk on tiptoe,
circumspectly, like the slow loris
hunters trap to steal their rare eyes.
Photograph © Karen Eliot