by Erica Hoffmeister
To the body that no longer feels sexual: the one leaking from several parts, even still, weeks after birth, after your body became solely yours again, but is still shared, always shared, never solely yours, never fully surrendering its control, always acting on its own accord, like still bleeding though most women only bleed for a few days, maybe a week, but you are still bleeding—my body—a reminder of a wound left open somewhere inside, somewhere you couldn’t manage to stitch up yourself, you couldn’t ask someone to close and heal it for you, with you, although you know, you know you should, you can, you need to, but you keep bleeding and it always restarts right when you put on your “good” panties, the underwear you can call “panties” because they are seamless, and black, but most importantly are not stained with blood and urine from all those weeks you couldn’t hold your own piss, so now you have to stuff those sexy black panties soft from un-wearing with middle school-thick pads that you’re still embarrassed to be caught in the tampon aisle buying, the ones your two-year old daughter calls mommy’s diapers which is only half-true, but it’s the half that still feels the bulk pressed up against jeans and spotted by all the thirteen year old boys at that bowling alley birthday party when your mother said you weren’t old enough for tampons yet, because for some reason putting anything inside of yourself is sexual, even a cotton plug, and when he looked at you, your middle school crush, under the flashing neon bowling alley lights when bowling alley birthday parties were still flashy, when everything was special and momentary, all you could feel was the pad pressed up against the lips of the parts of your body you were still discovering, but you knew, just knew, he could smell that rotting blood stench from between your legs that you hated so much, that marked you as other forever, the first time you felt removed from your body, controlled by it like an idle hand, like a possessed carcass, like a marionette doll dancing, dancing with something foreign between her legs, wondering if everything would always feel foreign placed between your two milky thighs, the cotton plug, the vibrator you never used, your lover’s flesh, your infant’s head crowning and the cold, foreign tools they needed to manipulate your body with to pull her out because your body was not enough, and you still feel his eyes, terrified, under the hospital lighting that turns everyone’s skin greenish, the epidural you wanted so desperately this time, to let your body take over like it’s been begging, begging you for years, but now you piss yourself if you cough or sneeze without warning, you still feel numb and out of control, as is common with forceps births, but you, you are uncommon, or so you thought once, before your body had taken its own space within you, despite you, does what it wants to spite you, you feel this—you feel all the parts that have left your strength and feel anything but sexy, you try and summon the womanly parts back to their rightful spark, but woman is now mother and mother has no control of her body, not you anyway, and you can’t even hope for an orgasm as breastmilk drips from your nipples that are now functional and no longer there for your pleasure, nothing is anymore, after all, it’s all function: your body that barely functions can now only feel functional, mechanical, joints grinding against one another, not smooth and sensual like before (was there ever a before?) and you want to, you want to feel the surge of love and sex and magic cover your human flesh but right now it’s mother flesh and you hate that it can’t feel both mother and sexual because why the fuck can it not, was it not sex that transformed you to mother, was it not sex that was the body’s first function, is it not pleasure that is the body’s purpose, to please you, to nourish you, to provide for you, but all it is doing now is leaking, and crackling under the weight of dying muscles, of atrophied memories, of aforementioned past-lives that can never be felt again as freely and guiltlessly as when you’d climb on top of your lover and be a body that can please and be pleased in all the ways that a body can and should be shared, and maybe that’s it:
maybe it does not feel yours enough to give away, to feel completely. What evidence is there that it is no longer your own, dear mother? The blood is yours, the milk is yours, the sadness that suffocates all the parts which seek pleasure is yours, the children are yours, the stubborn flesh around your abdomen that hangs like a potted plant is yours, too—love, dear body, in parts that aren’t mother—but I cannot. I bleed and I leak milk and blood and tears and screams and shakes, and so, I apologize. I fall asleep early, cuddled close to the tiny body I grew inside of me, sharing skin and exchanging hot breaths through the night, unwilling, unready to hem the frayed seams that loosely hold my parts together, a puddled mess of flesh and bone and blood and milk and muted, cellophane-tinted desire that once, long ago, existed in the pits of warm places inside of me, before I was incubator for a second time, that for some reason now feels different, violated, strange, as if I hadn’t shared my body in ways lovers didn’t deserve all those times before, as if I never got off for a much lower price paid, for no meaning at all—how convenient, the body that embraced sexual desire as nothing more, had never attached the orgasm to a sensation of love, could detach and fuck and feel and be a million different things, different bodies, different desires, and now, now that I’m split between three bodies, when he asks for me, tells me my body is sexy and I laugh, feel it all pulsating inside me, push it back down—that foreign, dead dullness, make my way down the staircase to brew another cup of tea.
Erica Hoffmeister is a Denver resident originally from Southern California who has two published collections of poetry, LIVED IN BARS (Stubborn Mule Press, 2019) and ROOTS GREW WILD (Kingdoms in the Wild, 2019). She’s had several works of poetry, short fiction, and creative non-fiction published in various outlets, both online and in print.