Origin Story

Kate Wyer


He knew. He had a child, my mother, when he was a child. The woman with the weeping knees came to him as he slept under a lean-to of driftwood in the April rains. Her skirt wet at the hem and at the places her legs moved her body forward. The deepest color at her knees and down the front of her shins. She woke him and showed him how to look at her. Look here, she said, and showed him the nape of her neck, and here, she said as she showed him her wrists, and here, she said, her bare shoulder. This is where you look. He looked and saw a body. She wanted to teach him the places to desire and then lead him to the rest.

He only saw what he did not have, how his body differed. He did not desire fear, but the woman found enough for herself.

If I could have carried you in my body, I would have, he told my mother. That was the only kind of desire I had.

While the woman was pregnant, she left.

She went to the woods like a dog, he told my mother. She went to have her puppy in the dark, in a cave lined with pine needles. My grandfather brought her fish and bits of soap to wash herself. The woman stacked the bits of soap on top of each other and left them near the entrance of her shelter. The rain formed them into a bar, and then into a smaller mass, the pine needles around them white and filmy, the bar getting red and black from the tea of the needles, from the black of the rich floor. Her knees ceased weeping. Whatever normally came out of them was needed by the baby.

When my mother was six months old, the woman walked into the sea with her. She placed her in the waves, her head above the water. My mother did not cry. The woman loosened her grip, allowed my mother to float and then stepped away. My grandfather, watching, always watching the woman from a distance, never wanting to be held again, rushed into the surf and caught the baby.

The woman stepped further into the surf and then submerged. My grandfather did not wait for her to come up.


My mother never cried or smiled as a baby. She and my grandfather grew up together, ran bait lines and ate fish heads. The church tried to look after them. The nuns wanted to feed them, offer them faith. The two had everything they needed in the lean-to on the beach.

He told my mother, Daughter, I wanted to be filled with you, not to fill.