PUNKMAMA by Martha Vanceburg

The thing about your children is that you love their little bodies. You stroke the fine texture of their skin, you run your hands over their sturdy, delicate arms and legs, and you gaze at their clever little faces. You talk to them and sing and play pattycake and peekaboo. You wrap them in blankets, mash their bananas, wipe their noses and change their diapers, cut the crusts off their sandwiches and devil their eggs, peel their apples, fry their French toast. You find clothes for the adorable bodies and shoes for the adorable fat feet. You buy beds when they grow too big for cribs, you wash their hair without getting too much shampoo in their eyes. You count their toes and teach them to swim and bring them to the doctor for their shots.

When they get bigger, they take their bodies away from you. No more stroking, no more frolics in the bath. They keep secrets. They eat abominable things. They have definite, repulsive ideas about their hair.

At a certain point some of them became punks — not just a style of music or jewelry but what seemed like an attack on the body you adored. A peculiar rage gleamed from their eyes and they went far away to places where you couldn’t, daren’t, follow.

Metal rings and studs pierced their tender flesh.

They dyed their hair and spiked it with egg whites and gels, and as if that didn’t say Do Not Touch loudly enough they wore more spikes around their wrists, ankles, necks. They dressed in black rags and in leather and metal, their clothes had zippers where you never saw zippers before. Their music sounded harsh and ugly to your ears, and the names of bands frightened you: Cannibal Corpse, The Damned, Skullfuck. They danced wildly and hurled their bodies into ungentle hands

You stopped smoking and they started. You worked out and they watched TV. They brought home girlfriends who painted their fingernails black, boyfriends who wore mascara. Did you want to know what they did with those friends? You did not. They told you what a skullfuck means, and you glimpsed the Divine Marquis in a black tee shirt.

Your children made friends with needles and they spoke an amputated language

You knew that it is possible to say all kinds of things without words, and that each generation finds its own way to appal its parents. You remembered your own parents yelling and crying. You remembered how you stopped trying to reach them across the chasm of their squareness.

But but but, you said, my battles were over language — politics — style. Your children made friends with needles and they spoke an amputated language in which you became ’rents. They smoked and sulked and you mourned the lost perfection of their flesh, the bodies they festooned with chains. Our flesh. Your flesh.