A mix of metaphors

As a person a raised in the Hindu tradition and also adrift on the gender spectrum, I think a lot about my uneasy marriage with my body—my willful bride, my ill-fitting glove, my indispensable servant. I also think a lot about my mind and my soul—insofar as they are distinct from my body and distinct from each other. Which of them is the groom, the hand, the master? Who’s in charge here? And who is the other?

In some scholarly interpretations of the Bhagavad Gita, the chariot is a metaphor for the body. It is an inanimate machine, both indifferent to and game for whatever course of action being agreed between Arjuna, the warrior (a metaphor for the ego), and Lord Krishna, the charioteer (a metaphor for the soul).

As I get older, and weary of trying to make my body fit the blueprint its handlers have in mind, this ordering strikes me as pretty oppressive. The body has a rough lot. In most conceptual frameworks, and in most metaphors, it is stripped of all agency, not especially relevant when unyoked from its invisible, more valuable counterparts.

But the body is a rebel. The body does not stay in place. In “Heavy (After Hieu Minh Nguyen),” Emilia Phillips shows us how “Sometimes my body is // a mixed metaphor.” And Mario Meléndez reminds us that, in its mistreatment, incarceration, deportation, and other abuses, the body is as literal and undivided as a tongue that’s been “ripped out / as from the oxen that stock the slaughterhouses.” And Kathryn Nuernberger reflects on the ways even a child’s body give out a bloodless wail that “wrecks the air / down to the very molecules.”

In the poems and translations of this first Dispatch of Issue 5, those in charge are quieted, and it is, finally, the body that speaks.