Saturday 18 June 2022

'Flight Path' by Fiona J. Mackintosh

Place of departure
Your mother’s an ancient Druid queen, her grey hair fanned across the pillow. Cloaked in a burgundy napkin, she opens her mouth wide to your spoon, greedy for roast meat and rice pudding with jam.

Your mother loves trees, birds, and things that grow, but for eight years in this place, she’s turned her back on the window, watching out for faces at her always open door.    

Current time at destination
Your mother makes small talk with someone who’s not you. “What should I make with this white wool?” They say the dying speak of children, so your scalp prickles when she asks, “How am I supposed to take care of the baby?”  

Ground speed
Your mother cries out, “My brain’s gone wrong again. I want to go home!” till the nurse slips in a gentle needle and she settles. In sleep, her convex fingers pluck at the sheets, then reach out, trembling, for something only she can see.  

Distance to landfall  
Your mother’s a venerable Abbess in her white nightdress, arms crossed at the waist. Her hands are laced with tiny purple veins, hands that used to brush your hair, trim your nails. Out of nowhere, she yawns sweetly like a newborn. There’s a deep hollow in her throat in the shape of a heart.

Flight time remaining
Your mother’s chest moves up and down. Her cloudy eyes roll up until the whites are all that show, her jaw slack and open. Just as you rise to call the nurse, she exhales.

Time of arrival
Your mother’s a stony figure on a medieval tomb. As you touch her face, all cheekbone and pallor, you’re back in a highchair, a tiny kicking thing, as she spoons the gluey Gerbers into your gaping infant mouth.  

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