I’m torn out of the dream into my wild body. Pelvis pumping ferociously towards the sky. Legs writhe, rub static, wrest free of the sham my not-yet mother-in-law bought us. The cracks of a blue sky peer out at me. A dream of a world I’ve already left, yet my body still clings to. A world my pelvis is releasing or recreating with every push and pull and pump. My boyfriend sleeping through it all, his eyes quiet commas. A lawnmower pushes its engine through the grass.
Once it’s light out, there’s no more hope of sleep. I could smother these convulsions, pacify the animal in me. I’m good at that. But part of me knows the intelligence of my body is more powerful than its instincts to contain. Sensing turbulence, my love lays a hand on my belly. I am weighed down in gratitude, like being fed hot soup on a cold, miserable day. But it’s not what I need.
Inside me is a little girl who wants to call her mother, scare her. Already the girl anticipates exhaustion, a stomach bitter with dandelions, a day waylaid of its productivity. A day that will become the dream.
There’s also another voice – I don’t know whose. She says go to the ocean.
I tuck my pelvis into pockets and map the drive on my phone. We’ve only been to the beach once since arriving a week ago. This is my boyfriend’s hometown, but he doesn’t love it like I do. His ocean is cruel blasting sun and sand in the crack of your ass. I park the car, badly trespassing the straight white line. The sky collapses. There is only bright. Only blue. I hold on tight to my purse, citygirl habit. The seagulls are hopping into the waves, gliding on them like tiny surfboards. My favorite part of the ocean is how it drowns all other sounds.
I try to think profound thoughts. What is at the center of the sea? Is it true nobody can map the movement of waves? Can nature be violent? My heels dig into the sand. A little dip at the end of every sentence or a downturned smile. Is the ocean made of rage? In a book I loved as a child, a long-ago shipwrecked boat washes up on shore and the ocean sends a tsunami to retrieve it.
The waves push and release, push and release, push and release.
Sun seeps and spreads across my crinkled brow. The freedom of the horizon widens my shoulders. I remember I can sing and nobody else can hear.
Now comes the part I never quite know how to write. I never want to be precious. Just yesterday I picked the cold meat off the chicken carcass with my fingers, the thick yellow grease smearing my face with a mustache I forgot to wipe off. I’m always writing the body transformed.
Singing to water is one of the greatest pleasures I know. We sing back and forth to each other, the drone to my melody. The source of all my music.
Back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. We release and recreate.
I drive home under the spell of the sea.
Back home, my boyfriend is working on his computer, bare-chested, a pillow propped up at his pelvis. His face briefly lights up, a motion sensor noting my return. Then flicks off, content. The dream rattles at my throat. Don’t I look like a body transformed? The girl in me wants him to notice, wants to drag him naked through coarse, glass-edged sand. The girl in me suddenly doesn’t feel transformed at all.
I writhe. Rub static. Wrest free—
—Waves push and release. Push and release. Push and—
The woman in me knows there are places only I can take myself.
Touch places me
Your body in my bed,
I wonder sometimes
if sunshine is simply love
and love draws me out
of the tundra.
The burn of desire? I’m a
My body makes no heat, only stokes
is no small thing
a wet log, cool as the moon.
Touch places me
into a body—my edges,
where I dissolve.
Alone vague outline
Blame it on
my father / my mother
who split my first year of life
Blame it on my underactive thyroid
my genetics, ancestral
grief like a second skin
a wet bathing suit I can’t peel off
Tell me I’m a slut.
Here is my body—touch
your soft curves, shoulder wings
jagged hairline at the neck
I sleep better
Arya Samuelson is a writer living in Northampton, MA, who has deep ties to the Corporeal Writing community in Oregon. She was awarded CutBank's 2019 Montana Prize in Non-Fiction, which was judged by Cheryl Strayed. Her work has also been published in Columbia Journal, New Delta Review, Entropy, and The Millions. Arya is a graduate of the MFA Creative Writing program at Mills College and is currently working on her first novel. She loves teaches online writing classes. Learn more at www.aryasamuelson.com