“Desire and pleasure are two ways that we assert that there’s something worth living for. And the more we remind ourselves of that together, the more we generate together. How do we move from a dying body to a reproductive body?” —adrienne maree brown
“My body is a series of bodies” —Matthew Siegel
I’ve been thinking about pleasure-, play-informed knowledge. What would it mean to come back into the body of our younger self? To communicate with our younger core and protect her? My godmother once said something about treating yourself like your own child, a three-year-old you soothe in your arms. How to create space for childishness, for dependency on and a deep yearning for ourselves? I think practicing play can help us perceive the curves of our being, the shapes of our bodies and minds. How we laugh, how we dance, how we fall and get back up.
I find play in gaps between the days and the activities that fill them: indoor climbing, cooking, crying, dancing, thinking. Talking and hearing my voice—how it sounds when I’m loving, when I’m laughing. How it sounds when I’m angry—salty and large. My largeness excites me: I’m all softness: I look for ease wherever I go: amorphous. I find myself in the mirror.
“a body circular as the earth, // water and air, / rivers surging through.” —Matthew Siegel
How to make a world of the body? My belly that moves and bends like an accordion. My arms—branches. How to use the body to make a world, or, to traverse it? My body decides the terms of my existence. Vertical motion: something our ancestors gave up, but we find a way to do it anyway. Up for the sake of going up. Up just for another cycle of the calluses under my middle fingers to bulge then harden then tear. Up to feel my body, to feel her power and plunge, to feel her tire. Up just for another way of looking.
I listen to my body. If she wants sugar, I reach for peach gummies. A walk? Open windows? Sometimes my body just wants me and I give her me. Then we are good to each other: the wave rushing toward the shore, crashing violently, then retreating back into herself. Experiencing her own surroundedness. Moving in the ecosystem of the self.
I’m sorry. I know I wasn’t supposed to choose love over god.
Your mom’s polka in the kitchen after the banjo concert, how you filled a glass of water for me, how it was Wednesday. How June was almost over but we’d just woken up after a long slumber, the sun looking for us in the morning, us looking for ourselves.
Eventually we found ourselves. Hiding in the pastry section of Trader Joe’s, stealing the gleam of the fluorescent lights in the shine between our brows. Stealing the chocolate babka. We didn’t want to come home, but we did, and it was okay because the sun kept finding us and we were stuck falling into each other over and over again. Sure, it might be a little late for this, but I think I’m finally finding myself beautiful.
You were frozen looking back at me from halfway down the stairs to laugh and then walk back down. Later, we thought about the stories about looking back and I remembered the Bible one and you remembered the Greek one. How cruel, I thought, but maybe it wouldn’t be so bad to be sand, or salt, or any mineral. Saltwater all over our smooth bodies, and you’d never have to be alone.
Words that go nowhere. I keep asking them to make sense of themselves. To feed me, to make me pretty for everyone else. They’re just there. They love me because I thought them up, I touched them first. They ask for my lips on their foreheads and tea steeped lovingly. They look at me so prettily: open-faced flowers with curious necks and brown eyes like mine. I don’t know what to do with my motherhood.
Sometimes being is enough; let’s not make anything. Just sit in our own selves and feel that. The words are there; our bodies are here. Let’s be okay with that inertia and save movement for another kind of novelty.
Paul and I went on a walk at the end of June. I asked if he wanted to go to our high school or elementary school and he chose the elementary school. We’d been there before, around a year ago—I had seen a traffic cone in a basketball hoop, stretching it out and making it oppressively squarish, and I empathized with the hoop.
This time, we climbed up the slinky play structure and looked at our childhoods. Our questions felt like answers. Our younger selves came out to play. The lost flower I’d painted on the gym wall—how I’d forgotten her face but knew she was there. The classroom we shared in third grade.
In the class photo, we’re all lined up on the bleachers. I’m at the front, with a purple-brown-green color scheme—great brown boots—and Paul stands in the second row. His hair is shiny; the bowl has a little crack in it between his brows.
When I think of Paul, I think of so many Pauls—the cracked bowl Paul and the Paul with a cardigan and wire-rimmed glasses and the Paul I called for hours last April. June, now—Paul upside down in an upside down world when I was hanging from the play structure bar, giggling at a West Valley Elementary School just the way I remembered it: flipped, lonely, and so full of everything we could be. He hung from the bar after me and giggled the same way.
We walked to his house, and it was a house I’d walked past so many times, but never knew it was his. Of course he had a fucking fig tree. As I walked from Paul’s house to mine, I saw so many mes in the shadows. I held the fig that Paul picked from his tree, felt how whole it was. As whole as the yellow moon that night. As whole as ourselves if we insist on it.
5. CASE STUDY: EUPHORIA. I AM THE SEER.
Picture this in my handwriting, on the title page of the book I was reading mid-July.
They’re playing Phoebe’s Samba. Friday night in a city so different from me. Listen to this. The silky tenor of drinks poured into glasses. Candlelight bobbing like heads out of time. It’s an extremely human thing: every place I go, I picture you in it.
The drummer and pianist are trading fours, their heads and bodies in seismic thrashes of sound. The piano sound hitting the brick like paint, spinning. The drum discovering its own gravity. Falling into it. Falling into it. Magic.
Someday, I want to be that alive: just born: is this a body?: is this the music?: is this how we spend our days?
6. CLIMBING POEM
The body knowing more than the mind. The mind wrapping her arms around the body. The body beyond itself. The falling. The falling. The ground.
7. BLOOD FAMILY
When I was born I thought all this might be easier. What I want to say is that I am livable. Community with myself is livable, no, sustainable. Sustaining. I protect myself by sharing everything. I make myself ugly and wet and thrashing, but at least I’ve said it all. Then I run.
Make this body livable. Make it good. Yearning for me. Looking for the good—the good which is looking for me.
The good finds me. She is actually my sister. She is actually my mother. She is actually my aunt. She is actually me. The good slips herself into me as a soybean stew, the good lodges herself into the cold orange I have fallen in love with. When I was born I thought all this might be easier. Now I see that it cannot be easy, but maybe simple. Iterations of the same truths. This is the breakfast burrito you made me: this is an old joke of ours: this is me, which you already know. This is me, sitting with me, soaking in me, drowning, running in me. My inseparability.
“We are received in blankets, and we leave in blankets.” —Marie Watt
I am the West Valley playground. I am the fireman’s pole I am now too afraid to slide down. I am the man who hates me for crossing the street so anxiously—he barely slowed down then looked at me with his hands up in a What the fuck are you doing, and I felt so awful. I am Paul’s fig, small and uterine and sweet. Unfolding, then reaching. Then gone.
If I write it all, am I cleansing myself like the summer rain when everyone’s rushing home for dinner after work, the pellets soaking through my clothes, knocking on my eyelids? The unfettered joy? The way home?
I am the chalk-covered jug I reached for today. She called to me, and I lunged for her, and I wanted to hold her but she was stuck on the wall and the wall was attacking me and I was so tired, and the ground held me.
I am the first reflection of the window light in your eye when you wake up and reel me back into you, and I’ve waited for you to get up, and you never sleep enough, and you’re up now. Maybe we’ll go to the coffee shop today, maybe just the backyard. Maybe we’re not enough for each other today, but we probably are. Surprised by love, a simple thing. Surprised by myself, a simple thing.
I’m thinking of a boat. The boat is red and ugly, and she looks just like me. The boat wants to go home. The boat has been trying to lucid dream that she’s flying and fish jump up and start flying just to be in her arms. To be ripped apart by her fingernails. The boat keeps a dream journal because she’s heard it helps; she keeps dreaming the same dream.
We are received in blankets and leave in blankets. We are never not holding anything, and we are never not being held. The waves rock, the waves are red: I dream of myself. I want to go home. Home sweeter than childhood. More real than love, and more permanent than light.