Day at Hilton Head Island after Feeling Dissociated from My Body for Too Long
Alison is asleep on her stomach,
and the tan line on her bottom is crisp
and as smiling as the tree line
pinning down the sky’s corners
like a bright tent. Down shore,
a Ukrainian family shouts over a stingray
they’ve reeled in, and Sally rises
to help with the unhooking, tail restrained
by the flat of a fishing knife, gills flared
in undress. A man messages me
on a dating app about going night
swimming, and I feel myself harden against
the sand. We join the dolphins sawing
through the inlet and float with the ocean
coming in, arms outstretched, our hands
open to the sky and pooling with water.
Pelicans dive after jumping fish
flashing like razor blades in the sunlight.
We hover, our bodies almost as glaring
on the surface of the salted black,
and let the current carry us a little way.
We all must give to the flux of things.
On shore, a beautiful man teaches
a less beautiful man how to run
with proper form, and ants congregate
on the bleached exoskeleton of a crab.
Jellyfish brush against my back, and suddenly
I am dripping on my hands and knees
at the water’s edge. Air wraps
around my waist, and hands spread
wet sand out from my spine like wings.
Why, someone asks, are you laughing?
I want to invite the whole world into our bed,
to nudge you over, open the covers like a wing,
and offer what shelter I can. Who am I
to feast on the warmth
that breaks from the stalk of your back?
My mouth full of it. Who am I
to taste the dew that breaks from the grass like bread?
Like birds that make nests with their spittle,
I kiss you and build a home.
I build a morning where light changes colors
as you roll over next to me, the sun tucked
just beyond the horizon, your areola creeping out.
Self-Portrait as a Deer
after Ecstasy of Saint Teresa, Bernini
What an S it made of you.
backwards, tracing the innermost
curve of the exit ramp.
Your back dipped below
the rise of your haunches
so full and ripe. One thigh
over the other. I half
expect to see your white belly
and nostrils flare
with pleasure. I imagine
myself in a similar pose,
though it is a hand that draws
my gaze skyward, bending
me toward the warmth.
I wonder, did you carry yourself
to the spot where the browned
grass greens? Did your neck
snake toward a campfire
flickering in your periphery?
Or did you land like that,
once struck, blind to the burst
L’Origine du Monde
After Gustave Courbet
My girlfriends tell me about their vaginas
while we sunbathe in a backyard or stand in a doorway,
caught between here and there. At kitchen tables, they tell me
about their pelvic floors and uncover miscellanies of trauma.
I haven’t heard much of their joys, though, the ones I imagine
out in the world somewhere like wild orchids drawing water
right out of the air. A married friend tells me she orgasmed, finally,
on her own, and blows gently on her Thai coconut soup
as if to soothe a kind of shame. As for the rest?
Perhaps we only share the sufferings of our bodies,
the joys too sacred to expose, resisting translation
as YHWH does, afraid of what sacrifice may be required
at the altars of our pleasure. My girlfriends tell me
of their own phantom pains folding deeper into tissue of nacre,
and while searching the web to understand my body, I read that,
rather than a rib, G-d created Eve from the baculum,
missing in human men but apparent in other mammals,
resulting in the shared perineal raphé, or scar.
I like the idea that the whole world is born from a scar,
but I have long since abandoned literal interpretations
of the myth that man comes first and then, if she’s lucky, woman.
Instead, I imagine us slithering out of the dark with silt-covered bellies
in still to-be-determined forms, our sex oscillating before us like waves.
The public beaches have been closed for two months now,
but a girlfriend and I stand at the mouth of a marsh and hold
onto each other’s elbows as we slip into the salt,
our feet sinking in the mud and the grass tickling at our wrists.
We shrink back when the water reaches the place between our legs,
and in this, at least, we are the same.
JOSHUA GARCIA lives and writes in Charleston, South Carolina, where he is pursuing an MFA in poetry at the College of Charleston and is a senior editorial assistant at Crazyhorse. His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Image, The Massachusetts Review, Poet Lore, Hobart, The Shore, and elsewhere.