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My mother was a place. She was the where from which I rose. Once on my feet, I touched my forehead to her knee, then thigh, then hip, waist, shoulder as I grew into my own wild country, borderless, then bordered, bound by terrors, terra incognita and salt seas. I took my compass rose from her, my cardinal points, embodiments of wind and names of cloud, but every symbol in the legend now belongs to me—rivers, topographic lines and shading, back roads, city streets, highway lanes that end abruptly at the broken edge of cliffs where dragons snorting fire ride curls of figured waves in unknown seas. Monsters mark the desert blanks on her charts too. Before she died, I folded myself back to pocket-size, my children tucked inside like inset maps and I lay my head down on her lap. My mother stroked my hair the way her mother had stroked hers, and hers before hers, on and on, and we remained like that— not long— but long enough to make an atlas of us, perfect bound, while she was still a place and so was I.
Copyright 2021 Hayden Saunier.