Page Content

Gold Top

Orange tiger, orange orange. Brown bear, brown bread. Blue whale, blue berries. We clearly, slowly, repetitively build you a rainbow of things, most of which you’ve never encountered. I wonder about this. Why should a baby care about a bear? What can a baby comprehend of a whale? Why do we start with other animals so early, when you have so much to learn about being your own animal?  

(Although it’s months before I stop incredulously saying things like “that was almost human” when you delicately sneeze, or your fingernails gather a line of dirt underneath them, or when you belch loud enough to silence the room.)  

Pink ham, pink flamingo. Why are flamingoes pink? In the future you might ask, or I might just tell you. Flamingoes, my dear, are fed by both mother and father. Their “milk’, a nutrient rich substance produced in a pouch near the throat, is red. But as baby flamingoes blossom and blush rosy pink their parents literally begin to pale in comparison.  

The new mother’s brain shrinks, people say to me, sympathetically, offering me another biological injustice to add to the tally. I look it up as I look many things up during those first weeks and it more accurately loses grey matter: ‘think of it as spring cleaning’ one scientist writes – a sloughing off of excess matter that prepares mothers for the urgency and complexity of childcare. Ha, my newly efficient brain thinks. That may be so, but I also seem to have lost language. I have definitely lost focus.  As I shrink and another plumps, something is ebbing out of me and I’m not sure that I had to it spare. I deteriorate as I’ve been deteriorating for years, and in front of me, very often attached to me, is monumental growth and progress, with the first hints of human in his wild eyes.  

Perhaps my depletion is a gift. Perhaps, I whisper to the plumpee, perhaps little big head, my milk is brain fortified. And if that is so, you, my child, will be a genius.

I’ve done my research, though, and I’ve got off lightly.

One deep sea octopus was recorded as guarding her eggs for four years and five months. The scientists who observed her from a submarine said it was likely that she didn’t eat for this entire time.

For many months after the cord is cut we continue to eat together. We are to be found surrounded by a rustling pile of empty wrappers. I brush crumbs out of your wispy hair and guiltily erase drips of sauce from your sleeping forehead. For someone that doesn’t yet eat chocolate you have an awful lot of it melted under your chins. Our shared gluttony feels like a life raft, outside of which much is adrift.  

I thought I was going to shape you. I was going to be Dr Frankenstein to your monster, if that had all gone more to plan. I was unaware then that you had arrived so fully formed, so yourself, miraculously so. I quickly realize that I can fatten but not form.  

As it turns out I really can fatten.

What are you feeding him

more than one person asks me

Gold Top?

I feel like that’s kind of a weird and personal thing to say. Your milk, from your breasts, is so fatty, what fatty, fatty milk.  Also your baby is ginormous, a mammoth baby. But they seem to be saying it in congratulation, so I laugh and pinch your cheek proprietorially.

Strange lips descend

upon your doughy white (dove, dumpling skin) belly, and you squirm as a damp raspberry reverberates around your innards.

Mmmm look at his ROLLS. His rolls have rolls.

His arms are exactly like sausage links

Oh those feet, those puffy little…

Can I just?

Incisors have been safely tucked behind lips but you’re wise to their game, their wicked witch curiosity, because you are no innocent yourself, no gingerbread blinded Hansel or Gretel.  

There’s a worm, well actually an amphibian, but it looks like a pale earthworm, that lives in underground lairs in the rainforest and lets her babies eat her fatty, nutrient rich skin.  

Those first kisses, landing open mouthed and wet upon my cheek or chin are suspiciously bite like. For you, affection and consumption are the most basic of pairings.  Your most beloved will have fistfuls of their hair shovelled into your mouth, legs are gummed adoringly but exploratively, as if looking for other outlets.

In the end the female will basically start to liquefy.

When she is almost depleted the offspring will crawl onto her and start eating. Mother eating is extremely rare in nature but these spiders make the ultimate sacrifice. Some spider mothers take the biscuit, I’ll tell you, when all of this is behind us. They just make the rest of us look bad.  

When you wake in the night, you reach out your arms to grasp absent parents and work your gummy mouth up and down in a sleepy suck. I want to tell you, if you could understand, that as a child I would dream about putting all of the things that surrounded me into my mouth –my bed, the chest of drawers next to my bed, my bedroom, the house itself, my brother, the cat, and sometimes my parents - rolling them around on my tongue as they slowly dissolved, in exactly the way that a chewy sweet worked by the tongue diminished from solid cube to a little curl of matter to almost nothing. The thing that really bothered me was that the things never disappeared, but just got infinitely smaller. I knew not just that I’d lost them forever but that they were still there.  

They’ve started to recur, those dreams, and you’re in there too, curling and dissolving like a Chewitt. I wake up grasping at the empty air between my arms - the nightmare lingering until I remember that you’re asleep across the hallway, and that you only ever get bigger.

Niamh Riordan

Niamh Riordan is an artist and writer who lives and works in Liverpool. She completed an MA in Sculpture at the Slade School of Fine Art in 2013, and is a member of Fairland Collective. She writes short stories and essays which often reflect her interest in food production, gained during a previous life as a cheesemonger.  Recent writing includes Hypno (in Hot Pot, ed.Laura Mansfield, 2017) and The Stucco Paradox (in Assemble: How we build, Hintergrund 55). Recent exhibitions include wo-no-qo-so (Lubomirov/AngusHughes, London, 2017).