A self, it turns out, is not always in the last place you put it.
It does not need your permission to move.
It travels light, forgets to call, it doesn't mind airless hotel rooms.
You may glimpse yours one day,
dusty, shrunken, fallen down between things.
You may be too lazy to retrieve it.
When you look again much later it will have gone.
A self may go mute, forget its name, mouth your old words in reverie, its voice may wither, it will shrug.
But then you might go home again, briefly,
to pick up an old journal or some government document.
You may feel your young eyes at your back, squinting at you from photographs, wondering who you are.
A self may be wrenched awake, jogged by a whiff of you as you were, a self may be unaccountably angry.
And then as you're stuffing your duffel full of things you acquired without it,
a self will dare you to answer the man who is looking at you with wide eyes,
who asks where you're going sweetheart, and what's the rush?
It will wait.
My mother awaited my birth in the desert.
She wandered alone twenty years.
She had only known one man all her life.
That was twenty years ago.
He was a chief and sent her into exile.
I made her heavy twenty years.
She carried a canteen of rum, a canteen of water, and a knife.
In her belly, I asked her for light and it was granted me.
I lay there reading books.
I heard her all around me; she invented fire.
She invented language and love.
She wrestled lions and cut their skins for clothing.
She used their ribs to comb her hair.
Knowing, she prepared for my birth.
She swigged from the first canteen, bathed from the second.
Both streams were never-ending.
She felt no pain.
She cut me out of her on the desert floor
And left me with two canteens of my own, but no knife.