The Invisible Body

Regla lesbia: Flexible rule that may be adjusted to any

body to be measured. Compare regla fija: standard. 

                                                    —The Velázquez Dictionary

In the garden, it’s there. Even when you’re inside you feel it,
as though it were you standing naked among the weeds,
the tips of the bougainvillea bursting into flame, your nipples
ruffled like the skin of a lake by a breeze.
You worship the invisible body like an old-fashioned lover, from afar,
loving the specificity of space between you.
Sometimes at night it stretches out on the empty side
of the bed, stares at you with the length of its invisible surface.
Every contour of your body not filled by you is molded
by the attentiveness of the invisible body, whose breath surrounds
It’s more than prayer it wants—more than language, with its
The invisible body demands you invent new senses to receive it,
new places on your body to marvel at its subtlety,
like the eyes of the deaf percussionist that perceive sound.
The invisible body wants you to become a satellite dish,
tuned to what exists only because your body calls to it.
Like the woman who had her kitchen remodeled to make room
for the microwave she’d entered a contest for. Then won.
When asked whether falling in love was about acquisitiveness,
about the ego, the seventy-five-year-old poet
responded that the ego had nothing to do with it;
it was the need for union with the beloved.
Rumi asks, Who is it we spend our entire lives loving?
How, then, do you measure the invisible body,
which resists commitment but is faithful?
Is it clear who the beloved is, when no clear
body exists that can be measured against a standard?
The invisible body sometimes acquires a body—it’s so convincing,
it takes you a while to figure out it’s really the invisible body.
Like someone who has been reading your journal,
it has decoded from your petty, daily complaints the open sesame
that slides the stone from the hidden cave’s opening
and cleans you out while you sleep, leaving a sarcastic note.
It wants you to know it was doing you a favor, besides,
how else did you think you’d discover the cave’s precise location?
When Aphrodite sharpens you, you sacrifice a little of yourself,
willingly, as a knife does, so that you may become better at it.
This is the point at which the invisible body speaks
in italics, the Ouija board of poetry.
In my mind, says the invisible body, that time capsule shuttling
through space, I hold, in all the languages of the world,
your love, rushed like holographic platters to a table,
steaming into the future long after you’ve ceased to shine,
the silver faces of your beloved bobbing out of the darkness,
the black velvet pillow of your life on which you offer them for view.
The invisible body is created out of your longing, your longing
compressing invisible molecules together into an absence you
That is the way one blind man sees the world—after the fact,
in photographs he took, once he had passed through it.

Aleida Rodríguez, "The Invisible Body" from Garden of Exile.  Copyright © 1999 by Aleida Rodríguez.  Reprinted by permission of Sarabande Books, Inc.
More Poems by Aleida Rodríguez