The Black-Lacquered Bowl

The Black-Lacquered Bowl by Rosaleen Lynch

The black-lacquered bowl spins on the tile, unbroken from its fall.  This dish, with its rosewood red innards, flies out of my soapy hands, hits the kitchen window and drops to the floor. Perhaps, like a blackbird, it doesn’t see the glass in its way.

I first meet the black-lacquered bowl when my husband serves me my motherhood tea. Folklore claims the household dish from the last-rites of the eldest matriarch, on the husband’s side, will fill a barren woman. I sleep and dream of strange men telling me I’ll be a mother now. I don’t believe the legend even when it comes true.

I stay home, as my husband wishes and every Sunday the priest leaves communion on our doorstep, wine in the bowl, the host in the recess of the lid. Other days I am left alone with the bowl. And so we talk. I speak into its rosewood veined dome and put it to my ear to listen, a game until the voice I hear back is no longer my own.

Every day my duty is to fill the black-lacquered bowl. In the morning with porridge and honey, lunch with soup and dinner with stew. Every evening, my husband comes home, serves tea from the bowl and watches me sip slowly until I sleep.

At twelve weeks I lie with it upright on my belly as my husband pours oil, from my age in inches, away and the wobble of the bowl tells us it’s a girl. From twenty-one weeks he listens for the echoes of heartbeats in the rosewood bowl. I leave the lid on the window sill with crumbs to feed the birds.

In labour the bowl feeds me ice chips, water and cold tea. I breathe, and shout into its depths on my last push. I clamp, cut the cord and feed baby while the placenta folds into the dish and slaps onto the tile. When I wake, baby is beside me in bed and my husband is home.

The bowl says I must rest. And rest I do while, baby eats, grows and sleeps, waiting until after the fourth trimester to be named and baptised by the bowl. Forty days confinement shorten with sleep and dreams.

I worry the black-lacquered bowl is drugging me and because I feed baby, it’s drugging baby too. The bowl tells me no. But I stop eating from it when my husband is away, discard the tea he brings me in the evening and pretend its sedating me.

Every meal I wash the bowl as if I still eat, drink and sleep from it.

And now the black-lacquered bowl sits on the tile spinning. It makes a different sound. A blackbird singing. It tells me that seasons change. It tells me that mothers, like birds, to find a warmer climate for their babes, must migrate to escape the cold.

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About the Author

  1. Avatar Rosaleen Lynch (1 story )

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    Rosaleen Lynch, an Irish community worker and writer in the East End of London, pursues stories conversational, literary and performed, believing in the power of words to make the world a better place. Words in publications including Jellyfish Review, EllipsisZine, Reflex, Fish and Mslexia.

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