Bodily Necessities: A Proposition

"For all bodies are in a perpetual flux, like rivers, and parts enter into them and depart from them continually."

          -- Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, Monadology

I realized today
that I am not a goddess.
A miscalculation, perhaps,
but now
I find another piece of my self
has eroded. It is raining
out of season and I cannot retrace
these streamings.

Over my fifth cup of tea
today I realized what it meant
not to be a goddess. After soaking the entire universe
into my skin,
you could plunge your hand
in and reach
clear to the other side of the world,
where I come from.

Scales of self
to my surface and drift away--
I cannot keep anything
not coffee, nor soup,
nor an especially runny lentil stew.
you refuse to complete your touch, leaving me
here, my fleshy parts
soft and runny.
Not being a goddess, I do not
need an inferno
to warm my insides--no, just
a bit more heat,
and I could have left your hands,

damp, cold
liquids pelt both sides of my skin.

I am embarrassed
because you have found the secret
of this body, permeable
and absorbent, and
you shrank away in fear
of melting in return, of not
being able
to find your own parts
a week after I leave.

unlike rivers, resist the sea.

This flux
will soon stabilize, my skin
rebuilds itself from these forced
immersions. Another
hand will touch me,
you depart. I
have learned, not being a goddess,
that flesh is most precious
in its solidity.
Next time, these boundaries will not collapse.
This next touch
will be my own.

2 May 1994-- 7 May 1994
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Sylvia Chong (