My Body Feels Like Nothing Without Yours Next To Mine

Natalie Allen
Natalie Allen

I imagine my body
as a tree in late winter.
Still bare in shades of smoky umber,
and hardened by the last freeze.
March is here now,
and in certain light there is color beginning to show, a little.
There are still weeks to go before the bloom begins
but the cold’s worst is over.

I imagine my body as a child’s,
flailing through sun-drenched grass.
Pudgy with youth and sugar,
I feel soft and quick.

I imagine my body as a paint spill, as an oil slick,
as the hardened coffee lingering the bottom of your mug.
I imagine my body as a a waxy receipt, pressed into
the dusty black carpet floor of your passenger seat.
Milk, two seventy-nine. Eggs, four eighty-three.
Cigarettes, nine twenty-four.

I know my body is a temple,
A vessel,
A gift,
A work of art,
The best damn thing he’d ever seen,
A machine,
An arbitrary collation
of all the things I cannot imagine.
I know my body is strong and healthy
with limbs that stretch and bend
and a mind that races
and lungs that push
and a heart that thuds.

I try to see my body as my own,
and not to see it as the focus of someone else’s vision,
I try not to see my own body as if I am looking at it
secretly through the crack in a fitting room’s door.
I try to grasp my body without gripping it,
the way my mother scolded me by the arm for being so disrespectful.
I drag on cigarettes as I walk through town,
cataloging calories and men and every way I have attempted to exist less.
My chest warms as I inhale and round each corner.

I don’t want to but
I imagine my body as the sunken,
greying impression left on your mattress.
I imagine my shape in sinking shadows.
I wish with time it could only grow deeper,
so that it becomes a hole you might fall into if you
moved just slightly to the left of where you sleep.
I imagine this other woman, shifting and curling within my silhouette,
attempting to fill it.
I imagine the entire bed in flames,
thick navy blue smoke filling our lungs as we watch, side by side.

I imagine my body as ash.
I remember the way yours felt next to mine.
I imagine my body as nothing at all. TC mark

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