Photography by Heather Maxwell Hall
Seventeen-year-old Keisha, once a high school track star, is now expecting a baby, a boy who spins and spins inside her. The expectant mother doesn’t yet feel like a mother; she feels like a runner. Her body remembers:
“She feels her body, kinetic and sweaty, as the once empty seats begin to fill. The crowd sits with their mouths wide, like stalks of slanted wheat watching her round naked body fly by. Somewhere inside, Keisha feels astonishing. Not fast or athletic or pregnant, astonishing.”
And so begins, “Panther,” this story collection’s first story of twelve, which revolve around the body.
Many of the tales in Morgan Christie’s These Bodies are astonishing, for their inventive, entertaining, and illuminating examinations of the human body—in motion, at rest, in relationship with other bodies. These stories teeter between realism and fantasy, often, as in “Cromartie Street,” having a fairy-tale feel, where strands of hair are used as currency and where characters sometimes can take flight. Likewise, in “The Abada,” a small boy discovers he has a mythical imaginary friend, not unlike a unicorn, who grows along with him.
In “Coyote,” main character Maria thinks the sighting of a coyote out her Las Vegas window might be a sign from beyond. In “Monkey Paws,” a man who longs for a child adopts a chimp—or thinks he does. And so we see the body yearn to make sense of other bodies, human and animal, to connect with them and take meaning from them.
Many of Christie’s characters are dreamers, whose nighttime visions inform their daylight lives, lived in earthly bodies. In “Dry Dreams,” main character Sumaya has orgasms while she sleeps, and with this setup, the writer delves into the erotic—another facet of the body to carefully study.
While Christie’s characters often have access to other realms borne by imagination and the subconscious, they firmly inhabit this modern world, where bodies are still judged by their outward appearance and by what they can do. Still, the fantastical and mythical provide release, if momentary. And so in the end, the collection on the whole reads as a promise, that we are both equal to and better than our astonishing bodies.
by Morgan Christie
Tolson Books $19.00