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I sit barefoot next to the tar pit and, along with her mate and child, watch the mammoth by the Page Museum forever sink into the tar. She can’t lift her fiberglass feet. In solidarity, I push my toes into the tar. That’s what I do to feel connected, I push in.  


There was a time that the partial skeleton of the only person excavated from this pit, a female, was displayed in the museum behind a three-foot-high holographic light-box set over her bones. She alternated between skeleton and young woman walking, nine thousand years ago, towards this pit. Each day, I struggle not to change from an L.A. woman to a full-breasted female walking towards this pit.


What is this pit? This life. This sulphuric stench. This tar trap of moving my bones inside my skin, of lifting my face to the winter rain. Am I just part of the great flood that is always moving, always subsuming another soul? Always capitulating to the quotidian lust for sleep, food, music, dance, sex. Always I want to connect with something outside myself, beyond what jeans or shirt or bra or thong or arms I put my body into. I tumble along in a great wave of oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, and carbon dioxide to sink in a sulphuric pit covered by the detritus of rent, taxes, phone calls home, unanswered emails, take out Chinese food, concerts at the Coliseum, bottles of wine, and dust, always the dust and ashes, that cover the pit in which I will asphyxiate.


The morning fragrance of flesh decaying between my breasts, like a basket of desiccated orchid blooms, smells sweet to my lover. I step into the pit lured by the scent of acknowledgement and fame. He follows my scent of momentary forgetfulness.


On the pit’s black surface, the moon loses her luminosity. No sun but memory shines on the shimmering colors of the gaseous bubbles before they pop.


Our collective mother Lucy left her bones over three million years ago on an Ethiopian plain. Lucy and La Brea Tar Pit Woman weren’t women. They were females. Lucy’s daughters became women, in English, in the 5th century. Can I dream something new without a semantic way to phrase it, to imagine it, to help me build it?


What about when my words aren’t heard, like with my mother, for whom I’m still a babe in her arms? I want to stand next to her, as a woman. Even in the same language, my mother and I can’t find the way to be more than females caught in the flood at the same time. Sometimes we struggle in the undertow of the same wave. Sometimes we can only watch as the other fights to lift her tired legs out of the pit, to crawl out of the primordial ooze to save herself.


How do we do that? How do we save ourselves? How do we save each other?


© 2018 Lisa Segal

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