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Featured Poetry Spring 2021

MY BODY IS A TRANSFORMATION MYTH

by Angie Lee

(i)

 “Some are transformed just once
 And live their whole lives after in that shape.
 Others have a facility
 For changing themselves as they please.”

 They talk about mothers turning into stones,
 hunters turning into stags but rarely speak
 of individuals changing within themselves;
 just souls inhabiting different bodies.

 So tell me, what is a myth?

 (ii)

 When I was a toddler, tucked into bed and refusing
 to give in to slumber, my mother would instruct
 me to pick two objects with which she’d create
 a story from scratch. The curtain and the clock.

 The pillow and the dresser. Lacking
 creativity, I would recycle my choices
 based on what was currently in view;
 there is only so much one can see

 from a supine position in a bedroom.
 Still, my mother would lie beside me
 and bring these objects to life, giving voice
 to the curtains who wished the clock would halt

 his noisy ticking, the dresser who existed 
 in eternal envy of the pillow that had frequent
 interaction with me. The tales awakened
 rather than sedated me.

 Is that a myth — making the inanimate animate?

 (iii)

 A body can turn into another body
 without external transformation —
 I’ve seen it. I’ve seen it when I went from feeding
 myself one year to needing help the next —

 on the outside everything looked the same.
 I’ve seen it when I went from one day sitting
 unsupported to the next day needing a chest strap
 to keep me from falling forward, constantly —

 still my body looked the same. And I’ve seen it
 when my best friend went from helping me
 one minute to being awarded for it the next —
 this is the moment I was perhaps most transformed,

 when the difference between others and me,
 that veil they speak of, revealed itself
 for the first time — my body was exactly, exactly
 the same. I remain in that shape, even now.

 (iv)

 And when at elementary school we began
 to create drama, snickering at boys and whispering
 about crushes, it was not long before I could name
 for each of my friends at least one if not two boys

 who were in love with them. Joey brought Hannah
 a stingray stuffed animal on Valentine’s day
 (stingrays were Hannah’s favorite). Steven professed
 his undying love for Hayley right in front of my eyes.

 Then one day, while brushing my hair,
 my mother told me someone had a crush on me.
 My best friend Lauren had said so to her mom.
 But why hadn’t Lauren told me herself?

 At age seven I was more saddened by the idea
 that my mother felt the need to mythologize
 a figure who fancied me than by the thought
 of lacking a secret admirer altogether.

 Is that a myth — a claim that may never be verified?

 (v)

 Actaeon stumbles upon the naked Diana
 then finds himself not man but stag.
 Where can we place the blame? On the hunter who took
 aimless steps through the woods? On the goddess,

 defending herself in a world full of rape and terror?
 Is this what defines a myth —
 when a character is transformed
 as a punishment for something beyond their own control?

 If these things are so, perhaps my body
 is a transformation myth. The way it carries my soul,
 making the inanimate animate. The way it is at once
 changed and ever-changing, determined by the neurons

 that survive within it (a kind of punishment, it feels,
 on some days). The way I will never
 truly know why, oh why, it was made this way,
 or whether it even exists: such a thing as a disabled body.


 Opening quote from Ted Hughes’s Tales from Ovid

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