My Body as Dublin, OH
You hate the deer that gather quietly in fields before they run into the street, so I try to hate them too. And I try to care about the grass growing greener, but all I can bring myself to notice is the roots of the pine trees lining our bike path, how they break through the tar, making the path too uneven to be functional, and dangerous to navigate unless you are already familiar with it. In the mirror of home, I can’t find my center. Like the trees, I know what I need to do to keep myself alive, but it’s messy and unsightly.
My Body as an Olympic Figure Skater
Falling is not only expected, but inevitable. Still, I feel the need to perfect something the first time I try it. Bruises litter my hip bones and knees. I was sick of being graceful, so at 21 when I was a washed up has-been in the figure skating world anyway, I switched to rollerblading, only to find I functionally only cared about doing figure skater moves on pavement instead of ice. I learned to arabesque on my roller blades, earning bruises as evidence. “Arabesque” is a French term derived from Italian, where it means “in the Arab style.” I wonder if the Orientalism of it is canceled out when someone from the Orient is performing the move. I wish I was the kind of person who didn’t worry about these things, or care about form, only about the wind in my hair as I go as fast as I can.
My Body as a Love Sonnet
I love to be longed for, windswept and laughing
his steeped tea eyes looking nowhere but me.
We are at an age where making mistakes
is more important than falling in love,
in an age where we don’t have time to make mistakes.
I don’t like to think about how long I’ll stay,
so I don’t and we don’t talk about it or about how
I’m always the first one
to pull away or about how
my girl is whispered to the split deck of tarot cards
to clean, folded sheets and rolled cotton t-shirts,
to the long braid that slips through his fingers,
to the lamps lighting the cold path home, my girl
up to my third floor window, the grass where he stands
the ocean you can see from the plane.
My Body as a Greek Myth
To be taken seriously one must write about Apollo and Daphne, one must be a part of the white middle class, conversely, one may write as a person of color, but only if one has white editors and a white audience, one must not use the first person pronoun “I” too much, one must only raise one’s had if one has something really important to say, one must make events linear and sequential, one must only write about racial trauma and never write about racial joy, one must write about trauma without using the word trauma, one must instead write about one’s body as a rolling river or a tree—one’s body can only be a form of escape.
My Body as an All-Campus Party
The best part is getting ready in my best friend’s dorm, blasting embarrassing music and letting her do my makeup. I wish I’d known when I was 19, trailing behind my friends, but never quite with them that I wasn’t invisible or too loud or too annoying or too much. By the end of the night my sneakers have beer in them and my makeup runs in rivulets down my face. At the end of the night, only after I’ve left the room of people jostling me, do I re-enter my body: exhausted, messy, and unsightly
My Body as Diaspora
My first language was Bengali. In Bangla, there are no gendered pronouns or tenses, and every word feels round in your mouth, coming out soft and beautiful. If I were writing for other Bengali people, I would not need to explain this. My last name translates to wheels rolling. Like all translations, this is a bad translation. Everyone wants me to write about mango trees instead of pine trees, about a language I now barely speak, and about family I barely know. I buy a perfume made by white people called “Arabesque” because it makes me nostalgic for India in a way I don’t want to interrogate.
My Body as Memory
There’s a thin, ropey scar on my chin from when I split it open on the playground when I was six. My light pink coat with yellow flowers was covered in blood. I don’t think it really hurt, but my best friend started crying, so I did too. One day I was running around shirtless with the neighborhood boys and the next my mother and I were arguing in the Toronto airport about whether my crop top was appropriate and I still can’t mark where the shift happened. Eventually, my lips become kiss-swollen and my hair tousled. My shoulder aches from when a man shoved me in a crowd, my cheeks are pink from the cold air, my nose is runny, my eyes are bright. I make myself a million different ways, each version with new things to say about survival.
M. Chakrabarti grew up in Columbus, Ohio by way of West Bengal. She is currently studying English and Women and Gender Studies at Kenyon College. Her work is forthcoming in Joyland Magazine.