In the belly button of Mexico, the sticky heat breathes life.

      I stand in an outhouse, dirty and dusty, my pulse in my feet. My Luis has gone. Away from me, away from our girl, leaving her young body to grow lithe and long alone.

      My Luis travelled with brothers to a land, strange and unwelcoming north of an imposed border. There he will pick grapes, yield corn, and with the strength of his back move furniture, precious furniture. In place of him, he has promised dollars.

      I reach into a drawer in this outhouse, aching with longing.

     I feel its smoothness before I see its form. The mound of breast, the roll of belly, the undulation of a thigh and moving up, my fingers tracing over this body until I reach the blunt break of the neck.

      The female form. Woman.

      I pull them out of their darkened drawer.

      There are seven of them tied together with thin rope, neck linked to neck. Knots of language holding them together. In their hideous forms, they are beautiful.

      My hands, nut brown, trace over their smoothness, the grey-green wood almost hateful. Zircote, the wood Luis had talked about beating. Zircote, its swirls that of shop-bought-bread.

      I think of the feel of his hands against the wood, beating curves into the solidness. I close my eyes, feel the light fade, hues of greens and blues as the thump of my heart echoes how he had closed his eyes, his anger forming these hidden creatures, expressing what words could not.


      My eyes open in hope.

      He did not always leave for the nearest cantina, lure of the gold liquid not always stronger than the pull of flesh.


      There were times, I think, when the anger that consumed him became beauty: tangible, touchable.

      The mirror has shifted, now, and I know that Luis created these beauties. This man, once mine, whose fingers worked carefully shaping a knee, an elbow, the curve of a chin. These are the same fingers that touched and stroked me, traced the marks of weather and age on my skin. This man, once mine, whose lips kissed my face, my breast, in anger and in longing.

      The thighs of these tiny goddesses are large, luminous, for here is the place where pleasure moves like a river. These unfinished legs, cut off at the hard, round shaped knee, take the form of a Lily, the oval that is both an ‘o’ and a ‘v’; the very essence of woman.

      They are almost all identical, these bodies, tied together: the last is different. She is smaller and carved from a different wood. She is rougher, unfinished, beheaded and yet more alive, somehow.

      And I think, then, that she is Angélica, our daughter. A being in-progress. She is heavier than the rest, and hard, solid, with marks a little darker in the wood, like eyes. I stroke the curve of hip, the indent of waist.

      My fingers hold that headless neck, that legless torso.

      Then they move and sweep over these beings, the passion coming through the nerves in my fingertips in sharp bursts. And as I do so, I give them a place where they can belong, a family in an outhouse of trust.

      My tears darken and lighten the curve of zircote. With my forefinger on their invisible bellybuttons, I polish these torsos to a bloom, vibrant, red and round. Through the heat, I give them life.

The Curve of Zircote

by Shauna Gilligan

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