FIRST, draw a straight line. Pretend it is a snake lying on the ground.
Mama looked at the “S” my stick left on the seabed. That is not a straight line.
Yes, Mama, I said. The ground is crooked; the snake lying on it is crooked.
It is perfect, my Moonling.
That is a story the oldest of the Mothers does not grow tired retelling. It requires imagination — some of my fellow mothers say, a suspension of imagination is closer — to see her as being once a mother, spewing bubbles.
We call her the One. A name no one remembers anyone giving. Then again, no one remembers the ones before her. The Mothers are Nameless. Birthing makes us thinner each time. In time, Mothers disappear.
Or perhaps we just cannot see them and the Nameless are still among us. We see through the One, a colorless frond undulating in the current, more Sea than presence. Only the One’s voice is undiminished, naming, telling, humming.
Or perhaps it is our own voices we hear in our heads. The figure for “one” can stand for “I.” “I” can be the line drawn on the seabed that shimmies as I look at it. I.
Few things in our world lie flat and straight, Moonling.
Our Father, the sea, bends us.
Our edges are soft. Our Father, the sea, bends us.
Can you cut a circle, Mama?
In her stories, the One cuts up the Planet Primus into two parts: us and the Others. The Others are dry mass and air and primitive life. To keep the Others from invading and colonizing us, the sea pays a tribute with his spawns, foam and waves creatures of the deep for food nearshore forests for their houses water corridors and bridges for their ships and, of course, the Moons, our sons, for light and time and sport.
Time for the Others is reckoned by cycles of six moons, each rising from the Sea, each devoured by its successor. Supplying the arena entertained by the gross deaths of his sons has not made the sea saltier than it is. What are tears to the ocean?
Beneath the sea, the bestiality pits Mother against Mother until the One penetrates their laments and cries for vengeance. Where do killers and victims come from? When the killer also becomes a victim, who mourns? Why kill?
We looked at each other and saw ourselves bringing forth life, steering most of the bubbles away from the currents that whip them into sea foam, tickling telling teaching the Moonlings that later rise from the sea as Moons and never come back.
Perhaps it is not birthing that makes us fade. Perhaps it is waiting for sons that never return that brings us closer to joining the Nameless.
A line is perfect, seen from all sides.
What is perfect, Mama?