Conception: An Allegory

Nicole Homer


I'm already twenty minutes late when I walk out into the street.
It's cold and raining and I know from the café's mirrored windows
and the pride of dogs humming in unison
that I am inside a song my mother is singing.
That is no sun but her voice,
rising, rising, rising.
Song is another thing I will not get from her.
I wonder if I am in her throat or her lungs.
It doesn't look how I thought it would.
Though she has never been there I think my mother is made of Paris.
I wish she were made of blood
of changing viscosity
of photographs, even.
I wish she was familiar.
There is a newspaper blowing down the main street—the rue.
Wind pins it to my shoe.
I try to pick it up but it is heavy as a corroded anchor.
I can read the headlines: three birth announcements.
It is an anchor now,
shaped like Cerberus and hungrier.
The clouds are a thousand milkless nipples.
I think: If I could get to her mouth
I could crawl out of her
like a high note,
light and scarless.
I can feel her breathing,
the windows swell and deflate.
Everything is alive here. I wish I had worn more sensible shoes,
combed my hair or, at least, looked in the mirror
before I left.
I wonder if I have on clean underwear,
if I have eaten,
if she will have me.
I realize I am the only person on the sidewalk, a pack of dogs behind me.
The windows are still convexing and concaving
and every other face in Paris is inside them:
the bookstores, the coffee shops, the tailor's front room.
I want desperately for the tailor to make me a dress.
I press my nose into the glass and watch him:
he uses his picketfence teeth to hem the dress.
The model is twenty and her breasts point up at the ceiling like tourists.
She doesn't seem to mind the bite;
in the mouth of the store
the pinch of each incisor
makes the dress fit like a new name.
When she sees me, she reapplies her makeup—
more rouge this time.
She is not blushing. She is singing.
Behind me, a semicircle of uncollared and wagging tails
hums along with her.
She pulls a baton from her purse;
we, a chorus of strays, howl.
It sounds as though we have never been full.
When the song is over, she pierces the window with a flash of her smile.
Every dog rushes in to tear at her dress;
we have never been hungrier.
Her lungs are a delicacy,
therefore, the last thing I eat.
She tastes just like Paris
which is odd:
I know she'll never get there with so many bloodhounds eating her.