Parenting—and motherhood, in particular—is central to the human experience. Literature is rife with explorations of the mother on the page. Recently Jesmyn Ward’s Salvage the Bones looks at motherhood through an absent mother and a dog. Regarding the centrality of mother to her narrative, Ward says: I was nurturing the idea of writing a book about a girl who grows up in a world full of men for around two years before I began writing Salvage the Bones. Esch’s character was the seed for the book, really, and in order for her to exist in that lonely place without women, her mother had to be dead. The fact that she was such a strong presence, in life as well as death, was actually a surprise for me.
Who can escape the power of the mother? The truth is, motherhood is not for sissies. It’s a profoundly intense job that is as full of conflict (internal and external) as it is full of hugs, kisses, and cuddling. For today’s Sunday Shorts, I am profiling, “Pod Rendezvous,” the final story in my collection, which revolves around a young woman who will soon be committed to motherhood as she has run out of options for her future. At approximately 60 pages, it’s the longest story I ever wrote. I just kept following it and it never seemed to want to end.
In honor of mother’s day, here is an excerpt of “Pod Rendezvous.” The collection is now available for purchase from the publisher (books in stock now!) and from Amazon (stock being ordered). The e-book version is not yet available.
Enjoy the read!
Be well. Be love(d).
Kiini Ibura Salaam
EXCERPT: “Pod Rendezvous”
The chaos of her party was just as she had left it, but she was not prepared for what she saw standing before her. She startled, then scrambled to her feet. At first she thought it was the mother-unit — her mother-unit — looking down on her. But when her mind cleared, she noticed the faces. She could see eyes, noses, lips. All the women in this unit had thinned their cloaks so that the part of the veil covering their faces had become transparent.
“M… M… M…?”
“Mahini,” the mother-unit sang together.
“How did you…?” Questions flew through Laki’s
mind. How could a whole mother-unit fit into a pod? How did they get past the concierge? Why were they here?
“We never answer how,” sang Mahini.
“You looked cold,” sang one mother.
“Happy, but cold,” sang another mother.
Laki bent down, scooped up the cloth, and draped it over her shoulders.
“You are the girl who is going into a mother-unit tomorrow, are you not?”
“So why are you wearing a marriage belt.”
“Have you changed your mind?”
Laki pulled the cloth tighter around her body. She was having trouble accepting what she saw before her: a mother- unit with faces. She examined the expressions in their eyes, the set of their mouths.
“Can you leave the unit?” Laki burst out.
One of the mothers smiled. “I believe we asked you a question first.”
“This…” Laki said, throwing one edge of the cloth open to reveal a glimpse of the belt. “…is a souvenir. I can’t seem to get it off…and you, can you all leave the unit?”
The women of Mahini shook their heads. “Temporarily, in an emergency, but our cloaks are bonded.”
“We are one,” they sang together.
“What about your children? What happened to them?”
“We refused to accept them. They belong to someone else…”
“…and we belong to the world.”
“We mother those who need it.”
“We mother with our songs.”
“We mother those who have never heard of us.
” “We mother each other.”
Laki’s head bounced around as she looked into the face of each woman as she spoke.
“Where do you…” She began to ask a question, but was interrupted.
“We don’t answer where,” Mahini sang.