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  • The Body: or Breach, and: Cartography
  • Nadine Sabra Meyer (bio)

The Body: or Breach

Temporal, worldly,   but prone to weaknesses of mind and character (lecherous,   they say, and gluttonous), [End Page 80] opposed to the spirit world   and starry constellations of thought, riding always   the horizon of the sea, that surface tension a hand   can rupture between air and substance, though my daughter’s   body is egg-heavy, consonant beauty, a tremulous shell   spiraling inward, her home suited and sleek, a Styrofoam bubble   strapped to her back as she dances on one leg   on the pool stairs: buoyant, she’s saying, bouncing, her new word,   I’m buoyant, and she is, all new growth, her cells dividing,   her bones lengthening, the fibers of her muscles tearing and rebinding,   the bubbles of her self rising up out of the deep-chambered tidal pull, climbing   a ladder of chromosomes, her body spiritual and animal, carnal,   ethereal.

      And all the while inside of me, my mother’s body,   re-membered through grief, is a martyr, beyond reason, tortured,   shaking on the bedside commode, calling me what I’d called her as a child,   Mommy, she’s saying clinging to me, I’m so sick, so sick,   and me, by some reflex mumbling, Mommy, I’m sorry, so sorry,   until I don’t know who’s who, or what mistake   we are making: she thinking I’m her mother [End Page 81] or me participating in some regression   or inversion, that she’s become me mothered   by her, a great need spreading out across the universe   of our sky, bringing us to our knees, humbling us   beyond selfhood, so that it no longer matters who is who, except that one of us   is dying perpetually inside of me, as I will someday and my daughter, the word, Mommy,   a mantra, a prayer, a call for help impotent as any call for help,   her own mother dead and unable to save her, as I, in this moment, save my own daughter, lifting   her terror-filled face she accidentally spills into the pool, the way in fantasy I believe,   briefly, my mother’s mother might lift her as she dips through the wet   scrim of this world and receive her on the other side, she who abandoned   my mother, she who, in life, left her as everyone left her, and I can’t do it,   I can’t be on the other side to receive my mother, who’s breaking   even now through the membrane inside me, so who will? [End Page 82]


After a portrait of Madame Recamier

by Jacques-Louis David, 1800

Looking at us through the prism of her own interiority,   the almond-sliver of her face alert, intelligent,     she has the rich interior,   what Freud tried to elicit from his patients

years later, cluttering his studio like an archeological dig   of the subconscious, as though each silver-inlaid lockbox,     each medallion, each figurine, sword,   might correspond to an inner trope, buried deep

in the womb of the mind. The mind, he knew, could be mapped,   like the world with its intoxicating scents, ships sailing     always for the east, one hand fingering   the fringe of occidental drape where a patient reclines,

her subconscious rising like beaded oil   to the surface. But here in the painting, this woman     needs none of it, and although the painter has elongated her   into an elegance the body rarely possesses, she glances

at us only briefly, before turning back the blank wall.   What a simple set he’s devised for his model!     The only props: a daybed to echo the curvature of spine,   two cushions, one a faded silk-blue, the other mustard-seed,

and an oil lamp to suggest the Far East, but otherwise the room is bare;   this is no harem, this is not the artist’s private thrill.     No, here we have a woman whose mind is untouchable   pure and clear agate, the top layers luminous,

the understrata seen to none but her.   When the aura of theater lights fills her mind     and she feels the heat-flutter of bodies move across her stage,   she needs nothing and no one from this world [End...


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