She names herself each time. She is Sphinx, once; her back to the door and a knife between her pink breasts. She is Rose, once; at the bottom of the lake, arms a circle around her head, blossoms in her green heart. Butterfly, then Beulah, then Beast. A prostitute, a priestess, a pirate. Her bodies are always perfectly formed, glowing and new as spring’s first bird, summer’s last moon; she is born with silver coins under her tongue, feet and hands like the opening lotus.
And yet, each time, she cannot help but feel displaced, formless, somehow, like a shifting tide, a faint memory owned by a fainter mind. It is as though certain parts of her were taken while she was still clay and never returned to her. As though she were Galatea, or David, and her sculptor had given her body unearthly beauty but the wrong weight, all cool grace and no substance, possibility becoming fantasy.
Often she tries to understand what she needs so acutely; in the dark, she closes her eyes and says to herself these parts of me that were taken, they are a little like the smell of apples, a little like the layers of the ocean, a little like the cure only touch can be. It’s like trying to remember a painful dream and she is never comforted. Apples, ocean, touch? She doesn’t want to be a poet; she just wants. Neither her thoughts nor her voice can give these parts that she is missing life, but none of her desires are stronger than their absence. No pain like that pain.
Whether she is Gelsomina on the rocks of Gibraltar or Mata laying seeds in the valley of the dead, she knows, in some blurred, quiet way, that she has arms and a mouth but no light, nails and teeth but no real eyes. A half-made spirit in a silken body; white-gray marble princess melting into the sand. She is the shape of a river after rain, spilling over its banks, losing blood to the dirt in bitterness. And yet — even when her waters leave her for the hunger of the trees, she is still the river, tied into the bowl of the earth and the breastbone of the heavens, and she will empty into the oceans of Aphrodite and the groves of Athena. She will come back, again, and she will take any body, any name, until she has what can only be hers.