The Soft Animal of This Body


“Let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.”

~ Mary Oliver

The soft animal of my body holds the exhaustion of spilling open and there are moments I wonder if she will allow me to continue doing so.

Delicate in her curves, the wobble of her belly, the shake of her thighs, the thundering in her chest and a quick gaze out the window to catch a sunny-rainfall storm,

(Once again, nature in all her wisdom shows me in a real way how to hold both ends of the spectrum.)

And I, a stranger for so much of the past few weeks in this bag of skin that does so much—breathes, mourns, fills with joy, feels—am a little more at home in her again.

I’ve been repeating this mantra to myself as I move lately, whether on the confines of my mat or through the world, off the mat and it is this: I am not this body, I am not this body as if the words said enough times could turn into a prayer that might change my shape and my flutter; or maybe even make my body disappear so that only a floating heart was in left in her place; as if, as if—for brief moments I could forget the existence of this shape that confines me and my thoughts, forgetting in my desperation what a privilege it is to have the ability in my body to do what she does.

(She can move and she can breathe.)

And she can do this as often as I ask her too, but only ifI speak kindly and whisper sweet nothings in her ear.

This works, sometimes; more often than not I get stuck in the map of lines deeply etched into her thighs, her breasts, the backs of her legs; I obsess over the tiniest details (which in my mind are mountains) and I hide my shame in feeling that when I smile, my face falls apart.

And yet…

The soft animal of this body that has the ability to take me places; she moves and breathes and I can’t remove her from me without removing me—so I am not this body, but I am.

What I am not is the fucked up stories that my mind creates (and society and media support) about how my im(perfect)ions need to be perfected or fixed somehow. from too-young an age I have fought a war with this shape of mine because she never fit into what was the “norm” or what was “celebrated” and although i’ve laid down my sword in surrender many a time

The war rages on until I can feel the purr in my chest and the soft animal of this body pulls me back.


      Two adaptations of this piece have been published elsewhere: on Rebelle Society and She Does the City.


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