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Excerpt from "Chimera" by Adrienne Gruber

Chimera by Adrienne Gruber
At the beginning and the end of a life span, it can be difficult to
distinguish mothers from daughters.
— Separation of mother and daughter cells, Peter U. Park,
Mitch Mcvey, Leonard Guarente, ScienceDirect
Fetal cells are known to cross the placenta and enter the mother’s blood stream. They’re found harbouring in the mother’s body post-partum, and sometimes for decades after birth. A mother’s cells are also known to host themselves in their baby’s blood and tissues. This process is called Fetal Microchimerism.
Like how I came to be, an ovum inside my mom when she was only a fetus, gestating in her own mother. With each fetus my granny carried, millions of embryos flourished. Some became my cousins, mostly daughters of her daughters.

My mom sits across from me. Vacant. Unwashed. I can’t tell when she became divorced from her body. She hasn’t noticed her own odour in over a year. Sometimes it is the smell of incontinence. Sometimes it’s the smell of an aging mind.
It used to be easy, Mom and I, together. Talking. Or this is how I remember it.
My daughters play on the floor next to us. They inhabit the role of queen and princess and say things like yes daaarling and pass me the polish dear mother and princesses hold their teacups with their pinky finger out, like this.
Whiteness plays out in satire, right on my chipped laminate floor. The pomposity of the British matriarch bloats under my girls’ skin. The irony of colonial superiority — they didn’t wash themselves either, just masked their stench with perfumes, linens. They resisted bathing. Masking was considered good hygiene.
My granny’s resistance to bathing was well known. My mom tried to get her to bathe, hired home care workers to come in and bathe her. Granny cancelled as many appointments as she could.
When my own daughters fight bath time, I panic. I tell them they will get rashes, diseases. I tell them they will suffer if they don’t clean their bodies. Really, I am gauging my own level of suffering. I feel suffocated by this legacy of dirt.
— Adrienne Gruber
is the author of three books of poetry, most recently Q & A (Book*hug Press, 2019). Her book of essays is forthcoming with Book*hug in 2024. She lives with her partner and their three daughters on Nex_wlélex ̱ ̱m (Bowen Island), the traditional territory of the Squamish peoples.