Fragments on Hips in _Postcolonial Love Poem_

I’m in the process of reading Natalie Diaz’s Postcolonial Love Poem and she frequently returns to hips. I used to feel a little bashful about returning to the same image throughout my own writing, but Diaz’s poems here are a reminder of how multivalent a “single” image or word is–how variform its expression.

In the titular opening poem, the hands of the speaker’s lover sweep their body: “Where your hands have been are diamonds / on my shoulders, down my back, thighs–.” This sensuous sliding down turns the speaker into a snake (“I am your culebra. / I am in the dirt for you.”) and we slither to the lover’s hips, a scene of gushing plenitude: “Your hips are quartz-light and dangerous / two rose-horned rams ascending a soft desert wash / before the November sky untethers a hundred-year flood– / the desert returned suddenly to its ancient sea.”

Coursing movements across desiring bodies echo throughout. In “These Hands, If Not Gods” the poem opens with: “Haven’t they moved like rivers– / like glory, like light– / over the seven days of your body? / And wasn’t that good? / Them at your hips–“. These lines take the distant glories of God–the accomplishments of a higher realm–and bring them into the immediate register of the sensing body.

In “Like Church,” hips are not only a zone of feeling or a scene that opens up into desire, they actively seek out the speaker: “Her right hip / bone is a searchlight, sweeping me, finds me.” In these lines, the speaker is swept (up) and recognized, in and by desire. I love the intimacy of finding oneself recognized by the body of another.

The last instance I’m thinking about is in the poem “Ode to the Beloved’s Hips”: “What do I see? Hips: / Innominate bone. Wish bone. Orpheus bone. / Transubstantiation bone–hips of bread, / wine-whet thighs. I love these lines–moving from an x-ray view of the hips, what is ostensibly below the surface, into metaphor, into wish bone, myth bone, into the hips as a sacrament, the intercourse of communion.

I am only about halfway through, but already these poems are so rich that I needed to write something about them, just as a kind of reflexive processing. I’ve barely accorded a sentence of reflection on the different lines I have highlighted here, but that just means there’s more for me to return to when I finish the book.

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