Journey across the map of the beloved’s body in this prose poem by best-selling memoirist Marya Hornbacher. You’ll find a specially formatted broadside here, or scroll down for the large-print version …


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Marya Hornbacher is the author of several books, including Wasted: A Memoir of Anorexia and Bulimia, Madness: A Bipolar Life, and Sane: Mental Illness, Addiction, and the Twelve Steps.  Her work has been translated into sixteen languages, and she has written extensively for magazines and newspapers.

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 Geodesy

(a science concerned with the measurement and mathematical description of the size and shape of the earth and its gravitational fields)

This is how I map your shape: I set out from the zero point, chart the course between coordinates, according to various datum, and stars. I track the fixed point of the azimuth, my direction reckoned clockwise along the meridian plane. I cover you with ink, notations marking spheroid, geoid, ellipsoid, determined by revolving ellipses around your poles: the soles of your feet and your skull.

Note: Zenith and nadir are not absolute points but directions, gravity’s path as it plummets and soars, intersects with the celestial sphere. Here, I can measure the acceleration rate of freefall. There’s a tool. Falling, I measure the speed of my own mass (Note: the vertical is not plumb. It’s slightly curved) as I curve through space.

Gravity’s field exists in temporal flux. Positioned within it, you orbit, tumbling end over end, curled like a homunculus, asleep. There, time passes and unpasses, memory speeds up, slows, reverses, like film: in it, you’re a girl again, swimming backward through the dark river, under the stars. You dive feet first out of the water, run backward up the bank, collapse drunk and laughing, stare up at night sky. The milky whorls turn counterclockwise. The stars grow younger by light years, flaring white fire.

You shift, sigh, turn from your side onto your back, throw your arms above your head. The shape of the earth is contingent on motion, rotation: as it spins, it expands and contracts. The shape of you shifts with breath. You expand and contract, plates crossing, glaciers cutting swaths through rock, mountains crackling upward from plains. With alidade and altimeter, I measure the contour, depth curve, plane. The distance, horizontal/vertical, from here. The latitude and longitude of waist and spine. Here, at approximate center, not east or west of the meridian, nor north or south of any known equator, the moon pools on your skin. Approximate depth: 3000 feet down, the liquid core of you lives and heaves. From surface to center, tides ripple and pull.

The tides are as follows: oceanic, earth, internal, atmospheric, and galactic tides. The latter: tidal forces exerted by galaxies on stars within. Thick strands of stars ride riptide and current, move over and under each other in waves, rise up and crash on shores of space. Notes on galaxies: when a body slips into the gravitational field of another body, their tides align. The closer one body is to the other, the greater the gravitational pull; whereas luminosity is constant, regardless of distance: both bodies glow with total radiant energy, and apparent light.

The presence of dark matter is inferred by its effects.

You sleep. I navigate with instruments and map. I strain against galactic currents, swim through the celestial sphere. I reach for your luminous body, true north: the five-pointed star.

 

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