Women’s bodies are border towns and colonized plains of color. They are fertile crescents, wastelands industrialized, commercialized, pipelined, run over, beaten, painted, pierced and labeled. Bodies are books, indecent, outlawed, defined by margins, erased and re-written with footnotes and constellations of memory in the vein-map below the skin, reaching and twisting blue toward the guts of us.
The words set on fire through the frail net of language are already running red through us, pulsing in our veins, holy and unseen. Our bodies are the communion in the church of the living.
My best friend Holly, who has knowing instincts, says to me often, “I don’t have the words, but you know what I mean.”
Language is an organ of its own, as invisible to us as all the rest of our inner workings. The organ of language pumps and digests and absorbs, is strained through the narrow colander of our throats into a watery tertiary of a once whole fruit, you know what I mean?
The skin of us has stories all its own as well, heroes and villains in the long-line stretch of scars, tattoos, and markings, culminations of the weather through which each of us has had to live.
Within my own epic, a silk line runs a horizontal river above the canyon-breadth of my cave —brackish, wrong way. It weaves a red ribbon seal across the divide, the place from which my baby was unfurled, man hands jerking and pulling in the depths of the woman-home of me.
I did not ask for that cut. I adamantly refused it, actually, but the push and pull of doctors’ patience, and the slow tick-tick-tick of clock-hands, the beeping of machines, and the endless bustling of nurses, all culminates in a rising climax of Western medicine “emergencies” more and more.
So I was to be Caesarean Sectioned.
In a white, nearly luminescent, blindingly cold surgery room, twenty people in masks stand around staring at a body I can no longer feel. There is a curtain above my gowned-breasts, so all they see is a face-less abdomen. I am a swollen belly and thighs. I am every woman who has lain here in the same position. I am no one. I nearly panic at the not feeling.
I am sliced and sectioned off, my baby lifted through leveraging, hands and reaching fingers piercing fluid sacs and shoving aside organs, leaving my body in gaping, gutted halves on a metal table. Like a butcher block, I think, like meat, like you could slice a cut of me off and slap it on a dinner plate.
Nice piece of ass.
My baby was supposed to slip out from between my legs with the same magic through which she slipped in, not be carved out of me by hospital-hands.
That jagged fault line across my skin is every “No” ever fallen dead from my lips.
It rises like water above the current of the in and out, in and out, of my self-hood, Her, She, Baby, My baby, Me — waves on packed sand.
That “No” to me has seared and broken-bright like a woman on fire, but to everyone else it has looked like a girl-mime, silent, pretty even, in her word-less protest — a strapped down, legs splayed Madonna, halo knocked off kilter by pagan hands.
The stitches used to close the wound were ugly and black and startled me every time I pulled down my panties. In the haze of exhaustion, I would gasp awake, mistaking the ends of the wiry black threads protruding from my skin for creatures, insects of some kind, scaring the shit out myself again and again through the perpetual forgetting in the fog that follows new mothers.
Now the wound has disappeared into the depths of memory-closets, so I can let it be. I can wear the scar like jewelry, if I want to. I tell, my daughter, Asah, that the line is the door she came through into the world. The black threaded-blasphemy has long departed, only the silt of things remain beneath, a cross-sectioned canyon land.
I’d fuck her.
A tattoo much too big for my arm is vertical in proportion to the mended river bed of my cervix. A she-wolf runs along the inside of my right forearm. She is mid-stride, ears back, teeth bared. Her haunches are shaded black with stars biting through the pale of my skin. She is running the night. She is night running.
My arms are not very strong. I was a small, bony girl, and now I am a tall, thin woman. The limitation of the body in relation to the soul is a hard grief to swallow.
“I want a wolf. This one,” I said, shoving my phone across a counter toward the shop-owner, a fiftyish Hispanic man in a leather vest with a braid down the length of his back; he grunted his approval, took a hit from a vaporizer, and said “Text it to me.”
I figured that was just a way to get my number (it was), but I texted it to him anyway, showed back up at the shop at 6:00 pm, and studied pictures of his confederate flag-emblazoned motorcycle gang while he held a hot needle to my skin and asked me questions about the Bible and used me as a sounding board for his theories on demonology.
I believe that he, as a proclaimed atheist, was attempting to prove to me that he knew more about the Bible than someone who had regularly attended church in the past, which was fine with me if he did. People in the Deep South maneuver every conversation toward White Jesus for individual reasons. I wanted to tell him that I thought the ink seeping through my skin right then was god. I wanted to say that the wolf was the divine—a symbol for the unspeakable.
“So why la loba?”
I did not know the language through which to explain to him my need for teeth and wild.
Because it is a scar I am choosing, I thought, left hand brushing the fault-line beneath my belly. And because la loba is woman. Because she runs alone. La loba because she knows the earth, because her instincts guide her survival, because she is vicious over the protection of her babies, because she is predator and not prey. La loba because I have dreamt of wolves since I was a girl, dark forests and all. La loba because the moons turn their powdered faces toward me. La loba because this insanity that people call civilization makes no sense to me, la loba because wild is all I feel pulsing atop the current of my veins.
I said only:
“El lobo porque es bastante.”
The buzz of the needle stopped. He searched my eyes for traces of the syrupy sarcasm dripping from my voice. I smiled like maple. He shook his head, grinned, went on with the ink-jection.
Years later, I have found time and again the dark thing in the wood, that creature that slinks and stalks, bares its teeth and flattens its ears. It was there when I was too little to be taught that my body was not strong enough to stay unharmed. It was there every other time I had to rely somehow on the weight and density of me to survive.
She ran ahead of me, though, La Loba, sacred footprints in fresh snow. And words are no more than scratches on the skin of time, darkened only where the she-wolves slink.
The reflection of me was fixed as I grew into the mirror illusion the world had for me — gap teeth were fixed with braces as a child, I Clinque-ed myself to hell and back, my hair was highlighted, and I outgrew the boniness, but I could never outgrow my shyness. Or my preference for reading books instead of making friends. Or the fact that I’m missing part of a finger. Or that now my arms are skin-painted with poems and symbols and she-wolves. My body has only ever fit in elsewhere-places. And I have never paused my body in order to explain its other-ness to onlookers.
And now, as a grown woman, there are many more things than an ugly hand or scarred-arms that have wrecked my woman-image in Southern society. Mississippi 2018 is Mississippi 1960, skin turned inside out —the shell is shinier, but the same zagged trenches run rivers across the face of it.
The tint of your skin alone still interprets your story down here, and I will always have the wrong kind of body. I suspect I will always have the wrong kind of body anyway, though. The night-colored la loba lines do not count if you set the whole damn storybook on fire, if both girl and the wolf live beneath your skin.
The sacred of my body belongs to me now, and there are no Madonnas left. Now my man licks the fault line of my wrong-way river like honey, and it has sunk into the silt of my woman-home to be re-created, again and again. La Loba always gnaws herself free from iron-hinged traps and spreads her Mother-body over the in and out of seasons, an easy lope in her own skin, ever moon-ward, kicking earth up over the way stories are supposed to end, and the ways bodies are “supposed” to look, despite the constant torrent of man-words spoken over our lives like plate-glass lies we learn to turn away from like black marks over red language, defaming the holy. I run my own nights red as both woman and wolf, moon and shadow, no apologies offered, none given.
Megan Ainsworth is a Southern United States essayist and memoirist who teaches writing and literature at a community college in Jackson, Mississippi. Her work has been published in the Brick Street Press 2008 and 2010 Short Fiction Anthologies, on Elephant Journal, The Good Men Project, and on her blog site; she was a finalist in the “Lorian Hemingway Short Fiction Competition.” Madgirl Elegies is a six month installment column for Corporeal Clamor. She is interested in gender politics and race relations, particularly at the intersection of faith and spirituality in the Deep South. She shares a home with a precious and precocious four year old daughter, three rescue pups, and a fish named Steve.Megan is completing a memoir and a novel-length work of fiction.