And if this was a theater, who was the audience?


My month of wanderings & wonderings (wanderunderings) began with my thinking about literary community. All of the posts have navigated those waters. I initially had sent out an email to a number of contributors for the most recent edition of [out of nothing], that is issue #6, asking for any responses, thoughts, reflections, dialogue. Andrew Choate threw his weight in the ring. And Saehee Cho sent me a small prose piece. She said that it was in dialogue with an E. Tracy Grinell quote I’d posted previously:

The sense of body, of the alienation of our bodies even in community. A sense of bodies moving through the world and touching / not touching. The remove.

Saehee’s work seems a fitting way to end my month of curating/editing/writing here on this blog. Enjoy:


the theater

by Saehee Cho


It was as if a limb had just woken up, bright and not quite aware of its own potential. But the limb was a kind of awareness and her body–something else. He was undulating soft shapes against her, the motion unpatterned, almost unbelievably graceful, as if there were a sheet of ice between them. She followed the length of her own arm, surprised to find her hands lightly positioned on the nape of his neck, the fingertips approaching the action of wrapping, knuckle joints hunched. His body looked a little broken, pulling in from the center, drawing in his knees. She thought of a roly poly she had once flipped over and the uncanny embarrassment she had felt for it when the silver underbelly was exposed, its innumerable legs kicking at nothing and eventually folding over its stomach in a sleepy motion. She removed a hand from around his neck, again, surprised at its responsiveness. The motion echoing a form. Was it hers? Was the form hers?

She observed his shoulder muscles, just there, compressing mechanically, folding into her body. The small, childish noises they made together, a predictable exhalation of air. She timed their breaths, their airy sharpness. They came in quick succession. As if he had sensed an irregularity in her, an angular change, she pressed the whole of her face into the slope of his neck, the bone of her nose figuring sharply. And she felt her neck arch, making room, unprompted, her body responding outside the permission of her consciousness. This practiced motion, her physicality unhinging, gone rogue. The immediate responsiveness of his body disturbed her, rehearsed and strangely unnatural when considered. It felt vaguely like a performance that her body had digested without her knowledge. She was startled that she had not recognized the theater of sex before. And if this was a theater, who was the audience? She looked inquisitively at a circus of furniture, gaping bold-faced at her.

The brightness flared.

If she had not known that this was what making love looked like, would her ribcage open up, just so? Would she know to hold him there, and there, and there? She took note of the shape of his ear, this small familiar thing, a doughy lobe. How she had rubbed it between her fingers when she needed something to hold onto while falling asleep. She reached for it, hoping for curl of recognition but the fleshiness, the laziness of its droop, felt unknowable to her.

She pressed a palm to his abdomen, a gesture of stop. He did. His body was shuddering, still metabolizing the stoppage of motion. She cocked her head to the right and surveyed him with sterility. How to explicate the shape they had taken? She surveyed their stomachs, hers breathing out to reach his and his, at that exact moment, inhaling away.

The sun was just lifting behind his head and she reached out towards her, holding her head in the V between her thumb and index and against the openness of the morning. Certain slants of light were pealing through the window and making slivers of the side of his face disappear. Like the sun was evaporating him away, in elegant pieces and she offered a bit of her own shoulder to the light, curious to know where their bodies might go.

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