by Kim Young
Maybe it’s not so bad to be promiscuous says my mom over Indian food that day we had lunch now that she’s 70 and her body has created phantom pain. It’s just a theory, really, this phantom pain, and I have a lot of theories. Here are the observable facts: She complained for years of headaches. Gets carsick on the way to the beach. Had to have neck surgery at a little hospital in Ventura, a hospital that seemed small, quaint even, too simple to be making long incisions on a body, on a neck. Lately, she says her feet are on fire. Feels like she’s being poked. She’s cold all the time and angry and sometimes erratic. She worked her body, my mom did, at a desk (“sitting is the new smoking”) and she worked late into the night after one of the two teenage daughters she cherished, my sister, was kidnapped and raped, her baby, the shy girl with freckles and dark hair--the cute one. Maybe sitting at that desk in her city government job was really like smoking a couple of packs a day. The neuroscientists say the body makes meaning out of what happens in the brain. Makes the electricity of the mind tangible. Maybe the body is the oracle. Always I yearned for touch, for sensation. Place your hand on the deck of tarot. My mom over Indian food says what’s so wrong with that. I couldn’t wait for it. I couldn’t wait to light up this body of mine. I was a little girl. I humped my friends in bedrooms and then jumped in pools all summer and we timed who could hold her breath for the longest. I wanted the kids in my junior high to rip my front snap dress open and wash my thighs. I couldn’t wait to go deeper. I was witchy and wore crystals and tie-dyed shirts from the local thrift store called Aardvarks Odd Ark. There was an entire rack of tie-dyed shirts, different colors, and I could’ve been any girl, a line of us, my shirt was blue, and my boyfriend played 7 Seconds over the phone for me at 10PM on a weeknight and we were filling up the dark sexual space between us with punk rock. At 7 my daughter can tell boobies contain a juicy power. She jiggles mine and watches them bounce and in line I see her studying the billboards and the summer girls in cutoffs. I want to ask her: are you going to accept the call collect when the body becomes some rough boyfriend serving time in the penitentiary? Oh but the body is brighter and reminds me of my own animal light the way I loved when the boy down the street would tuck his hands in my sleeves and slowly pull fighters from my chestplate until he got to my heart.
Kim Young is the author of Night Radio, winner of the 2011 Agha Shahid Ali Poetry Prize (The University of Utah Press) and finalist for the 2014 Kate Tufts Discovery Award. Her poems and essays have appeared in The Cincinnati Review, Los Angeles Review of Books Quarterly Journal, Hotel Amerika, [PANK], Poets.org, TriQuarterly and elsewhere. She teaches at California State University Northridge and lives in Los Angeles with her family.