What the Body Remembers

(A very short piece of poetic prose)


Natasha’s small weight rests on her great-grandmother’s frail hips. Her spindly legs lay between the woman’s old ones. Her great-grandmother chews her gummy mouth; flicking the crumbs with her tongue. Natasha, with her mimicking mouth, takes the nourishment onto her rich red tongue. She takes a bite, with her sparkling new teeth, of words she will never understand. Her great-grandmother speaks in her mother-tongue, Gujrati. Natasha has a voice but does not speak in any tongues. She hears the sing and song of the language – not the Indian dialect but English. She knows neither but the language that will stick is English.  This is the only language she will know apart from a few words east of here, west of there. The words that appear come apart at the seams from her small mouth. You can hear a language but it is not Gujrati, not English. You can see the pictures she draws with her mouth, circular lines not quite rounded. Half-eaten words coil around her throat, splitting letters into halves; morphing into symbols as if she were a character in a comic book. Look, her great-grandmother smiles she is making fun of me. Natasha howls with laughter. Her hands cover her mouth.


Natasha takes her tiny four-year-old hand and presses it against her great-grandmother’s callused eighty-year-old hand. Their hands rest against the woman’s wounded breast. Natasha feels her great-grandmother’s heart pump blood. She feels the rhythmic opening and closing of the valves as the blood rushes through the woman’s aging body.  Natasha traces, with the soft of her fingertips, the hardened veins on the back of the old woman’s hand. She feels the history that vibrates between generations, between a great-granddaughter and her great-grandmother. Natasha does not understand but her body soaks up what seeps out through her great-grandmother’s skin.


Natasha’s body remembers. Her hand strokes the couch where her great-grandmother sat. She remembers the rhythm of the old woman’s speech; the steady thud of her heart. She listens to the music that vibrates in the air. She does not speak. She finds the pulse of the music and dances. She looks in the mirror and runs at her reflection. She climbs on the back of the sofa and lets her legs sway back and forth. She feels the void but can not name it. In her darkness she screams for her words. She forgets and howls with laughter. Somehow, the art, not the act, of communication has been completed.  Her body remembers.