Pebble in a web


My niece learnt three languages at once, each word tipped into her like a pebble until she was heavy enough to stand up in the river of sound. In German, when you can’t stand someone, you say, ich kann ihnen nicht riechen, that you can’t bear to smell them. In Indonesian the word for smell is the word for kiss. Grandmothers press their noses into pillow-cheeked grandchildren and inhale. What would the mothers of our grandmothers think about each other if they met? Once our grandparents die, there’s one layer less between us and death. Like tree rings that grow from the inside, the babies keep coming, pushing us further out. Tree rings aren’t visible unless you cut down the tree. Ancestors aren’t visible either, but I like to think of them as rings in a tree we won’t cut down. A seed turns dirt and water into the hard flesh of wood. Once, I was greedy for more, flailing until I bound myself in life’s web. Now I know to be still, lest I bring the spider to me.

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