My Mother Upon Hearing News Of Her Mother’s Death

By Cathy Linh Che

She opened her mouth and a moose came out, a donkey, and an ox—out of her mouth, years of animal grief. I lead her to the bed. She held my hand and followed. She said, Chết rồi, and like that, the cord was cut, the thread snapped, and the cable that tied my mother to her mother broke. And now her eyes red as a market fish. And now, she dropped like laundry on the bed.

The furniture moved toward her, the kitchen knives and spoons, the vibrating spoons—they dragged the tablecloth, the corner tilting in, her mouth a sinkhole. She wanted all of it: the house and the car too, and the flowers she planted, narcissus and hoa mai, which cracked open each spring—the sky, she brought it low until the air was hot and wet and broke into a rain—

the torrents like iron ropes you could climb up, only I couldn’t. I was drowning in it. I was swirled in. I leapt into her mouth, her throat, her gut, and stayed inside with the remnants of my former life. I ate the food she ate and drank the milk she drank. I grew until I crowded the furnishings. I edged out her organs, her swollen heart. I grew up and out so large that I became a woman, wearing my mother’s skin.

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