Steam Pressure Catapult #1
It’s easy to forget how many times
we’d been expelled
like phlegm from a smoker’s throat
or canisters at a drive-thru bank,
but hard to forget the first launch,
the twists and idiosyncrasies
of the metal track chosen for us
by the computer hooked into the motor
beneath our seats. A single catapult
with six different trajectories,
randomly selected, so no one
could know exactly what would happen
simply by looking up,
though something like inertia
keep our eyes glued skyward.
In this way, we became our mothers,
anticipating future from structure,
believing in the latest breakthrough revelation
concerning what happens to our bodies
and our fate.
How being shot up the tallest track
meant that we would be successful
(the forces our cells experience
would inure them to stress).
How looping back on oneself
would trigger a mid-life crisis
(it takes decades for the crisis
Our mothers kept a spreadsheet
of the injuries we suffered,
put tick marks in six columns
(ten for track #1, twelve for track #2…)
and told us, according to the latest science,
if we were good or doomed.
We wanted so badly to be okay,
we did whatever we were told.
Knelt on cold floors before the machine god,
plastic bags with odd pieces of candy
clinging to the sides and the rare rabbit’s foot,
asking for the best track tomorrow,
the flavor of the month, any hint to say
we’ll be fine as long as we can take it,
the vomit never making it out of our mouths
as we swallow.
We have never smelled fat spoiling on sand
or seen the bloated belly of a whale heaving,
but we know the power of nausea.
We have this in common with our mothers.
How they still shudder when remembering
our backs pressed against spinning walls,
the vomit smeared across our lips.
How they flush when thinking of the blood
pooled in our faces. And while the machine
didn’t deliver new news of the womb,
didn’t fulfill the promise of tranquility
or enlightenment in those it centrifuged,
it did help us understand queasiness,
our stomachs sloshing to recreate
the sickness our mothers felt when they first learned
of our presence. Nausea as the sensation of the body
carrying a foreign body. The first few months,
bright and terrifying, like staring into the sun.
Unfamiliar like Compazine or sticks of raw ginger.
What our mothers swallowed to have us.
Everything they buried. Would it surprise us
that they hid away their shame too
when wiping our chins after?
Is disgust encoded epigenetically?
When rescuers released twenty beached whales,
they were shocked to find the pod swimming back.
Prostrating themselves on the sand.
Two, three times. The scientists were baffled,
but we had seen everything. How a body can persist
beyond anything that was ever in it.
What could prompt a mother to lie in the sun
and let her milk curdle.