Mother-Daughter Coagulate

A lesson in pain and suffering today. Though I was the pupil, rather than my daughter. A lessening of her suffering, as she graduates from primary bale to secondary scrapes and grazes. Only serving to heap greater psychic pain on me, as I am held back and made to repeat the past year of torment in my head.

Prior to the present passing out ceremony, whenever she came into harm, the anguish she felt was raw, unadulterated, untreatable and, incidently, my fault of causation whatever the external reality. With the pain siren howling, and depth charging the slight friction of blame, I would crank myself up into hysterical emotional overload. ‘She’ll bleed to death. She needs stitching. Get a compress on it til I can get her to the hospital. Call 999, curse 666. Will someone not deliver us from this catastrophe?’ Well, No longer.

Now she knows to wash down the wound even as she waves away my wringing hands. Then to toddle off and get a plaster. How to adroitly work the adhesive protective paper off and to line up the lint over the gash. The trickling blood does not faze her, for she is all cool application. Yet she is not detached, since she constantly explores the clotting process. Dragging me to the internet, in order to trace every interlocking ply of the coagulate weave. And also through her own forays, unpicking the scab, back through the clot, past platelets and fibrin, seemingly unsatisfied until she has located the enzymic source of her red Nile.

And thereby I am plucked into redundancy. Standing alone from me, she now looks to herself and her own body. My hysteria is cut off. Set adrift. There is no place for it to go, to drape itself. To lavish itself like a cataract of engulfing love. I tamp myself back down. Hysterectomy of my emotions. My daughter the locum gynaecologist. Only the surgery’s possibly botched. In hope, I lash myself to the mast of despair.

What if she’s punctured too many epidermal layers? That the laceration’s too deep, or gouged through too many inconvenient nooks and crannies, to be smoothly resurfaced by the clot’s chain gang of conscripted fibres? There they would be, backed up at the lip of an untraversable hollow. Chafing at the bit, angry red in hue. Tendrils extended over the gorge in vain, grappling for a hook beyond, with which to establish purchase. But where they are met with nothing. Holding back the press of their brethren with a flabelliform sweep of outstretched filaments, one plucky member suspends himself a line in an attempt to span the breech. But he just hangs pendulously, beyond redemption and his lariat is severed, consigning him to the void. His fellows froth and writhe in their stranded sterility. Still the lurching impress from behind. Will no one give the signal ? They knot and grind in their constriction. It’s getting ugly. Would then the fluffy pink french polishers, sign off the work and just stretch an ill-fitting flap of strangulated skin to cicatrize? And thereby only italicize the blemish?

For there are those scars that fade quickly and those that mark for life. Brought about by her involuntary clumsiness and unimagined consequence, and my voluntary inconsequence and all too imaginable ineptitude. My poor baby. No more of doctors and nurses. Now we can converse about cosmetics and covering up.

Marc Nash


~ by yearzerowriters on December 3, 2009.

17 Responses to “Mother-Daughter Coagulate”

  1. Very tight writing. Nice use of wounds and coagulation as the symbol around which to pin the changing relationship between parent & child.

  2. hard to swallow, for me.

  3. Ditto

  4. Mark I can see this is a controversial piece and I’m not 100% sure what to make of it or whether you’re playing games with us. The language – especially in the penultimate paragraph – is exquisite. But the piece is daring because it’s essentially all tell and no show, and the points it sems to make come straight from a de Beauvoirean view of development. I need some time to think.

  5. For next week’s show and tell I’d like to bring to the class …

    I understand the distinction between the two that is talked to death in writing communities online, but I simply don’t think in those terms. I crashland the reader straight inside a character’s psyche and take you for a guided tour of their emotions. How do you express/encapsulate human emotions? Only through metaphor really, since there is a paucity of language in which to express it directly. The metaphor here is the separation of pain response, but then forensically extended in a ‘tell’ way i suppose, so that the metaphor is almost gutted through examination.

    I wasn’t trying to play any games. A developmental rite of passage – minor in that it is not marked with a party or other social acknowledgement – but one that throws the relationship between mother and child into whole new alignment; one which knocks the adult half of the dyad off her orbit. From the moment of birth, whether we acknowledge it or not, it is a process of letting the child go in order for them to emerge into fully fledged independence. Of course, most parents struggle with this somewhere along the line and blur the boundaries between self and other, when that other is a child of their own flesh. The successful child manages to abscise themself from the parental bosom.


    • you share a great deal with Sarah in that your work is a whole lot more complex than even you realise, I think 🙂

      • Sometimes I can retrospectively theorise on it, sometimes I can’t cos it’s written on instinct.

        As to complexity, it’s the biggest criticism thrown at me and my work, so maybe that’s not such a good thing if it gets in the way of communicating.


  6. You use mother/daughter & you are a father. I wonder why? This piece is superb but it cuts too close to the bone for me to want to read twice in one day. That, of course, is a compliment. Is it the type of reaction you wanted?

    • All I can say is I’ve been the main parent-rearer since they were about 6 months and being that they were twins, my wife and I very much shared those initial 6 months equally. As an only child to dysfunctional parents, I was put into a role of being an adult (observer & mediator) at quite a young age, administering to the children that were my parents.

      This piece is from a novel which is all about the developmental process and asks the question why does our species, freed from seasonal reproduction, still have kids? Now that is controversial Dan! All the characters in it are female, including the human genome strapped down (metaphorically) and being probed-raped by the computers trying to decode her.


  7. Cuts close to the bone in my case too – from the daughter’s perspective. My mother is still in denial that at 36, her child is grown up 🙂

  8. Marc, it’s complexity that makes people come back again and again. It’s a good thing – at least it is when I say 🙂

    • Of course it ought to be a good thing. The complex interweave of all things to do with relationship, not only between people, but even trying to describe the relationship of objects in space (just ask the painters!). But are fewer and fewer readers inclined to put in the work, or are they just turning away to easier things? Would people pick up Joyce or Faulkner now, quite as readily as their predecessors of earlier generations? I don’t know the answer to this. I’m sure there is a constituency out there, but none too sure how to zero in on it.

      • the answer is that we need to remain true to our principles, keep doing what we do, accept that it will be a long haul, and see what happens. What’s amazed me by the readings I’ve done here in Oxford – as conserrvative a place as you’ll find – is just how engaged people are by the words we come out with. The constituency IS there, and we’re targeting the right places. It just takes time

  9. Language is rich, clinical, convoluted at times.

    But this story engaged and amazed me.

    It is an interesting though not an easy read. However I also feel that it’s not a matter of fewer people putting in the work to read complex pieces.

    Sometimes it’s a matter of a writer adding too much spice to the pot.

    • Ha Marisa thank you! That’s a very generous reading of it.

      it always surprises me that more writers aren’t wrestling to pin down language as it is so slippery and treacherous towards meaning. That’s what makes it convoluted for me.


  10. This is interesting… & I was relieved to read its from a novel because I was on the bus just now thinking: how could he have sat down & conjured that up? Where did it spring from? &… I am a fiercely over-protective mother. Squirm. I will read it again tomorrow to see what else it does. : )

  11. Marc, you use your language so uniquely, and yet the themes are incredibly universal — what an amazing balance to atrike! It’s not the sort of thing you can learn to do, it’s fucking innate 🙂

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