What The Body Longs For
My sister, whom you write to still, told me the news: the lump, the biopsy, the doctor’s advice — tempered, I’m sure, with hope and a smile — and the gleaming smile of the knife itself, moving across and into you, like a sharp nail, digging deep, passionate and cruel, the steel tip moving without hesitation: what must be done the only truth, which flesh obeys — as the nipple hardens under the tongue, as the whole breast fills with milk, as the body itself with pleasure, or pain, sways to its commandment, dances out over the long day, and lies down with the night. Like stone we are, like water. Like the young girl giggling at the boy’s sideways glance, his secret devotion, his unconquered shame. Like the wife with arms crossed angrily, denying her husband the gate to peace, the way. Like the soft head of the baby on the chest heavy with love. We are the body, and what the body longs for. We step toward each other and our lives are lengthened. Every cell in us rejoices when our true name is called. Yet we lie. We lock the only door. Then we pray for the door to open! We weep and tear our hair. We search through our pockets for the key. We look in the eyes of the one beside us. The body cannot stand it. From the head to the toes there is sorrow and shame. The body knows just when we left and the ghost arrived. To be an unloved, haunted house — this the body despises. The way the man and the woman, long separated, want each other now, is how the body wants us: eager, naked, willing to do anything for love. How shy you were at first! Afraid I’d see you naked! Other marriages, children, different towns and faiths clothe us now. The days thread into years, the years into a life, which we gather like a robe around us, and can’t bear to take off, and yearn to take off. How much we endure before the robe falls at our feet.