My mother, my mother’s mother, and her mother, and her mother, and her mother’s mother—their worries, fears, traumas, triumphs—all live here in the bowels of my bowels. Tucked in right next to my womb, curled like a sleeping retriever.

The pulsing and pushing and swirling of want and need wrapped in tight like a lowercase c. My hope lives here. My future lives here. But my internal tides swell to think of it because, though no future is certain, mine is more unknown as the weight of time accumulates. Coiled entrails expand and contract; I have no control over this.

When I imagine next week, when I ponder next year, the thoughts weigh heavy and blank. My dreams end in fog. I have no control over this.

Smoldering red inside my gut, burning embers, a fire of consumption leading me by hooked fingers from one spot to the next, one home to the next, old body to new body—recognizable self to compromised recreation. They tell me I’m sick, and I feel sick. I do: the rage, the smell of decay, the snaps and pops of glowing wood shards, splintering my spine, tearing my shoulder blades, rising up into the base of my skull. There’s a dull ringing as my temperature elevates, and I stare into an abyss, wondering if all that brakes inside me can withstand the journey from body to body, a flesh suit that changes shape and cut with each moon. Like Mars, clouded and rusted out, hollowed from what could come…what most definitely will come; it’s only a matter of time.

Now is my gift. Contrary to the inclinations of my mother and her mother and all the mothers lining the paved yellow line, I try to find peace in my pain. Instead of numbing, when my body screams, I use the churning of the movement, turning my worry to cream thick enough to spread over the crevices and chasms of my darkness. Searching, straining, hoping to sculpt a sliver of light.

I rip myself to pieces from the inside out. This is not violence for the sake of violence—I have control here. The tearing of the old, painstakingly ripping each me into portions of new stitched together with grit, held together with suet. If the brokenness is mine, the putting back together is mine, too. I sit and warm my hands, pressing them toward the too close flame, and feel nothing, know nothing of comfort, only the uncertainty of longing for peace while straddling the sun.

Barbara Lanciers is a performer and theater maker by training; her work has been presented by La MaMa E.T.C., Here Arts Center, the Bowery Poetry Club and the 14th Street Y in New York City. She is a producer, writer, and performer for the Dyke Division of Two-headed Calf’s queer soap opera “Room for Cream,” which played at La MaMa E.T.C and the New Museum. Her articles on performance have appeared in Szinhaz, a Hungarian theater magazine, and Didaskalia, a Polish theater magazine. Her most recent project was creating and directing the stage adaptation of Hungarian Nobel Laureate Imre Kertész’s novel Kaddish for an Unborn Child, which has been performed in Baltimore, Boston, Houston, New York City, Tucson, and Salt Lake City as well as cities in Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, and Romania. Barbara had the privilege of participating in the 2018 and 2019 Tin House Winter Workshops in nonfiction under the mentorship of Myriam Gurba and Elissa Washuta as well as the 2020 Tin House Summer Workshop under the mentorship of Melissa Febos. Barbara serves as a Community Ambassador for Open Medicine Foundation (OMF), an advocacy organization working to increase research for Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS), a neuro immune disease impacting 2.5 million people in the United States and 20 million worldwide.

Art by Jill Khoury