Self-Portrait as a Woman, or Something Else Entirely

There is a seed. I am writing about it like this:
small, sweet, flighty, breathless.
I am trying to make a home. A breathing miracle —
my belly —  and I in love with all things alive.

Tomorrow, the seed will be a crumb.
I name it chimera, as in hope. But I don’t mean hope, I mean
on the verge of impossible.
One day, my mother says, it will disappear completely,
like a ghost. It will never leave you alone.
What will you do then?

Mostly, I would like to live.
I say I am a woman who is a girl who is a terrible lie.
Sometimes, I’m not even a woman at all,
merely the body of a woman with the insides of
a jellyfish — slick, writhing, medusal—
no man dare enter here.

What I mean is, I am searching for a way to say
trees without fruit are still trees.
But this tongue is not my tongue—

shy, shy, shy.
I have borrowed it from my mother
and her mother before her.
A familial heirloom smaller than
a pinprick. I can disappear for days.

Do you recognize me?
I have become another thing by simply
being the same thing — alone.
Despite everything,

I go on making.
I forget the seed.
I remember every woman I have ever met
(file them under now, not yet, never).
I remember the dark god with a handful of death.
And Persephone —
forever a daughter unable to make a daughter.
There is no more girlhood prudence.
When the time comes, you either
take his hand or starve.

I am reading about terrible things again.

The mother bee and all the workers
women. Unlike humans, they are not for creating life;
they are tasked with removing the dead. Suddenly,
I am no longer waiting for the spring.

I imagine the girl at home in the cool dark of hell.
All the snow, and my tongue out in the open.
I’ve lived here all my life,
you see. This body as an apology.
This body I have known only as

a message:
That death is not a thing, merely the container
for the thing. My maidenhood,

being carried away.
It remembers tiny deaths,
the one that comes each month, and larger ones yet to come.
It remembers how to moan the way all houses moan
when the wind gets through.

See, my mother says, she will never be alone.
She, who is not me, who is simply a body

I am beginning to understand.
I am falling a long way.
I am mothering myself, which is, suddenly, the
final, true miracle.

In the winter, I stand naked by the mirror and whisper
the bees, they see everything.