Edward Hopper, Eleven a.m., 1926
by Mia Ayumi Malhotra
Today I boarded a plane. Where does one body end and the next begin?
A shock, that this land, the body to which my life is bound, ends in water. That, in the end, we all come to water.
That I am leaving this body—freeways, blocky tracts of land. The merged self we make: mother, mouth, milk.
The sea’s blue-gray edges, making and remaking themselves. Lifting and laying themselves down, a ceaseless flattening. Body of water, body of milk.
I am moving from fullness to failure. Left to reckon with the body I am leaving behind.
My breasts weeping milk. Marking the hours that cleave us. Our selves, stranded on separate continents.
The first night away, I wake at midnight to a twinge in my left breast. I huddle over the bathroom sink, pump pressed to chest. Nipple elongated, silky with milk.
My baby, my breast. How tightly we are bound. By the hours, sliding past. By my body’s milky secretions.
With no one else around, I tip my head and drink it down. A single warm, creamy mouthful. I am drinking myself in, a new sensation.
The next night, I do the same.
The third night, I do not wake up.
My body is no longer the full, fertile tide it once was. Looking in the mirror, I hardly know myself.
Seems impossible, that I could leave it all behind.
Where does one body end and the next begin?
At takeoff, I feel the air around me resist. The feeling of belly being pulled, as though tied to land by an umbilical cord.
As a mother, I sometimes feel atmospheric in nature. It feels like a diminishment, somehow, to be merely a body. Though, in absentia.
A diminishment yet also a relief.
One day I will leave this body for good.
When I go, I would like to leave not much behind.
I left and it was day, and I landed, and it was still day. I had a night, but I had it in flight.
In the air, one loses all sense of where one body ends and the next begins. Continents, seas—the ocean’s blue sprawl, its restless churn.
Mia Ayumi Malhotra is the author of Isako Isako, winner of the 2017 Alice James Award. Her poems have appeared in literary journals and anthologies, including Indiana Review, The Greensboro Review, Best New Poets, and Dismantle: An Anthology of Writing from the VONA/Voices Writing Workshop. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her family.