And is this tenderness? Professional palms kneading my bare, / jittery skin?
Body Ghazal I
At a certain age we all forget nakedness. I mean alone, dawdling,
denuded, not-looking. I mean inhabiting our own bodies.
The physiotherapist arrives and I withdraw my jeans as if
under threat, wincing though I cannot see my sewn body.
How he examines the sweep of my back or the burst of my hips—
under his care an excess of material. I disperse; my strewn body.
And is this tenderness? Professional palms kneading my bare,
jittery skin? Sweat rivers my spine and I’m ashamed of my grown body.
I don’t think he desires me, no, I worry instead that he might see
me as I am. Loose sheaves assembling, spliced into a loaned body.
Body Ghazal II
When I returned I tore—Agha Shahid Ali
the skin off the glass.
Seven years old, unaccustomed to being woman, when
massage aunty arrives—routine assessment of my then-body.
Those slick orbs of oil, her sari a careless sash across her
ballooning belly, hands burnished on other lumpen bodies.
In India they say a massage can fix anything even the color
of your skin. I undress without the weight of event. My body.
Lying still on the jute mat, I make peace with nipple and
dust, and the sunlight reconciles our bent bodies.
I gather all my mirrors around me to tell them nothing.
There is no revelation in seeing your first, fermenting body.
I look at the ball of grime swelling in her hands, delighted
to see something so malleable and dirty come from my spent body.
At the door my mother peeks, her daughter cleansed. Here I am—
a name she spoke—awash with life even outside her hemmed body.