This should be, but is not a book review.
It would be but the book it would review is not a book that can really be reviewed. At least not by someone like me. But books have always been one of the many means by which She speaks to me. The means by which She reassured me that She is very much alive despite protestations to the contrary. Books have always been a conduit to Her realm. The means by which She has whispered sweet suggestions and painful truths into my ears. Sometimes a new revelation, sometimes a breath stealing confirmation, written in the exact words She had used when She told them to me so I would have no illusions about Who was speaking. Her message has spanned generations and traditions, cut across borders of time and space to reach me, always there when I needed the truth about myself and this beautiful, stupid place She has sent me to.
So, this is not a book review, we’re agreed? Good. But if you must know which book it is, then go and buy Akwaeke Emezi’s Freshwater.
OK, now that we have settled that little issue I will tell you the story of a little girl with two M/mothers. They are right when they say you break the child by taking away her M/mother. Me? My Mother was first taken away from me many thousands of years ago, taken away in the way that men drunk on father-right deny a Goddess her due. I watched her fall and I would have died with Her, had they killed her as they thought they had. (we are not dead. we do not die). Instead I went underground, back to her realm, the place they fear. The place they dare not enter. But she sent me back to my mother (my earthmother), who, also, was taken away from me before I was born, taken away in the way that communities steeped in father-right take women away from themselves and/or their children so just a shell of who they are, who they could be, remains. Ultimately powerless avatars, ineffective in the ways that count. My mother fought back, but it was the kind of fight that meant pursuing an education away from her children and being punished for it because it meant she was away for most of those crucial years when daughters must be protected from the possessed phalluses, old and young, that currently roam this realm, and the entities that ride them. Maybe this is why my Mother gave me to her? This earthmother could never really have me, anyway, so I would always be off balance, I would always yearn, always remember? I honestly don’t know and no one is inclined to answer, yet.
What I am still not sure of is why my Mother thought I needed to even come here. She asks me often if the beauties of Her processes are not worth being embodied to bear witness to. They are, but I truly would be indifferent if I had never gotten the chance to experience them in the first place. I fight often with Her. I want to come home. I’m tired of this place. More specifically, I’m tired of the people. I’ve tried to go home. She bars the way or sends me back every time. (OK, there was that one time after I left the hospital when She reattached my umbilical cord and told me to cross over if I really wanted to come home. It would have been peaceful. In my sleep. I felt the intoxicating tug of disembodiment, the pull back to Source. I woke up instead, crying, missing my earthmother. I stuck my tongue out at Her when She smirked at me. She laughed and told me it was alright if I wanted to stay with my earthmother a little longer.)
But I digress.
I had other mothers to compensate. Plenty of them. I am the last of 5 children (7 if you count well, perhaps more if you looked really hard and counted really well). Only one of these is a boy. I had many other mothers. Sisters, aunties, cousins, family friends, but the one who counted the most also got taken away, prematurely, permanently. This was the final blow that broke the child. A sibling-mother is a double bond (later that year when a mountain erupted and she recognized the heaves of her little broken heart in the tormented heaves of the earth, even as her senses reeled from the raw fury of the manifestation, she understood that she had to reign her rage in or risk destroying even those she loved on this plane). I was broken, exposed, vulnerable, bleeding in silence, with the occasional violent crying fit and panic attacks (earthparents and doctors thought it was asthma). My essence poured out daily, as fast and as unchecked as the essences of other hurting people poured in. All their pains and illnesses, sinful hopes and tortured dreams soaking into me like I was a sponge.
I think my Mother was mightily miffed when the earthparents heeded the recommendations of a nun to send me to a school that was closer to home. I, for my part, was relieved to be going closer to my earthparents and welcomed the change. She knew better it seems. At the Catholic school I was in, I had access to and could make devotions to the Virgin Mary, one of her watered-down manifestations. This would keep an awareness of Her in my mind, without conflict. This new school would be a Baptist school where I was sure to meet the one they call Jesus and his supposed followers. She had no problem with her own son but his staunch followers are another matter, that is why She leaves them with him. My Mother is impatient with dogmas, you see? Change cannot abide dogma. Truth is capable of shifting with time and space. I’m sure She saw the incoming damage because before I switched schools, She had my father (a superstitious man desperate to protect his fracturing daughter) take me to Her sacred grove by a river where I was marked for Her, not that he or I realized what was happening. In retrospect, the fact that a woman said the incantations that dedicated me, should have been sign enough. I resented him for this and when the opportunity came, I gave myself over to Jesus readily. But they could never reach me, these followers of Jesus and I could never really be His, I came to find out. I tried to be with him, to be with them. Mother knows I tried. Mother knows because she said no. Jesus himself would tell me later at the door to his throne room which he only gave me fleeting glimpses of, his eyes gentle and sad, that the claim on me was not one he could tamper with, that this was not the throne room I should be looking for. He wouldn’t, however, tell me whose claim he deferred to. “You will see,” is all he said. I couldn’t believe it. I resented him for that for years and stubbornly clung to his side even when it was clear I would never belong to him or that crowd. That one still gets the side eye even though it amuses him more than anything else. Sons who are gods should be loyal to the Mother, I suppose.
As should daughters.
I ate a lot those days. Tried to fill the cracks and holes with food. The body needs food to heal and grow, doesn’t it? At least I could taste my earthmother’s love in the food she cooked. I also prayed a lot. There were the prayers to Jesus/God. Words and scripture sang, shouted, whispered, groaned. My earthmother watched me pray often concern marring her brow, so deep were my sighs. Then there were the prayers to the Other One, Her, the One who really listened, the one who actually gave a shit and got things done that I needed done. Groans in the heart, silent pleas, desperate looks. Like the time I needed a reason to believe in this reality and looked up just in time to see the sun sink beyond the horizon between the islands in the Bight of Bonny, its lingering rays shimmering in purples and oranges, lighting up the sky. It is a weird thing to witness the earth move. Or the time I tested Her and said, “use me, don’t just bless me” and by the end of the day I had to give thanks, my face warm in ecstasy and wet in tears because she led my work to my own doorsteps, with her son’s help. Or that time during prep when my mind was spiraling and I could not study and desperately needed to zone out but I also needed to be School Senior Prefect and model a good example so I wished for a power failure and the lights went off as soon as the words left my mouth. A friend called me a witch that night. I just felt relief. Or the fact that as soon as I finished college, the path for me to leave Cameroon opened without complication.
She is Mistress of Many Little Graces and Big Favors. Consolatrix Afflictorum, some call Her.
She tried to come to me in many ways after I accepted that me and Jesus could never be but by then, the incomplete doctrines of certain factions of Jesus’s followers had done the work of blinding my eyes to any other possibilities even though I saw clearly through their other illogics. She came to me in a book as Sophia of the Gnostics, Queen of the Ecstasies. That didn’t work. It frightened me more than anything else. She tried to draw me back to the Virgin but I would have hidden myself in a convent, something She didn’t want. We that belong to the Mother are not Brides of Christ. When the Carmelite Mother Superior, speaking with Her voice, turned down my novitiate request emphasizing that the work I had to do could not be done behind convent walls, the rejection stung. It still amazes me that I believed the words of men over the words of a god, of gods (there were other friends, hidden in trees, in animals, in rocks, in the wind, in the folds of my mind, in the very fabrics of life itself). I believed humans over the Word of Life. I walked away from organized religions altogether, now confused by the conflicting messages I was getting. She seemed satisfied with my rejection of mysteries from the Levant.
“There are more expansive ways to grow,” She told me “and don’t say I didn’t try to protect you this time.”
Then she let me loose on the world. Her little strangeling. Her little monster.
“Go and be. Feed on what feeds you. Take what you need from the world, only give back fairly. Live a life worthy of My mark. Forget Me, forget Us if you must, but We will not forget you. And when time is fulfilled, We will come for you, daughter.”
And so it was. She came for me when She was ready, and She pointed me in the direction I must go.