excerpt from “Cyborg Love Affair”

by Catherine Chen

Over the water’s edge, she crosses her legs. Her figure is obscured by the shape I often find myself dreaming of: girlhood phantasm. 

Dripping gold over a reflective pool. 

No more sacred ground. A drop, then several, transforms her from the body of a girl into the minutiae of data collection.

How does night begin in her memory?

20/20 vision. I recognize the days when I was content with the living often configured as childhood. In an object: incubation.

The girl I want to introduce you to has a name. You can call her Lou, if the formality of her given name resists the easy roll of the tongue.

Green hair, one eye taped shut. A green lady. A good lady. Her hair extends to her knees. Brown skin, brown brown tinged with the pink undertones of a teenage girl’s foray into rouge. 

Due to inexperience, mostly shame, the gazes follow. They are absorbed into the fat of her thighs. The body of the monster is far more tender than we will ever deserve to know. She understands this, strategically.

Can I tell you something about Lou? She is great fun to be around, to have float outside your ego’s inner orbit, the furthest ring from the remainder of the body’s toxicity. I don’t mean to estrange you from yourself, or to suggest anything, only to establish the stakes. 

I want to describe her in the least helpful way.

I don’t want you to see anything, not even the blistering remains of her shadow. Lou is palimpsestic chalk on the sidewalk. Lou is a nimbus cloud. Lou has no idea where to begin.

Put another way: at a young age, your mother discouraged you from invention. You were enough and this devastated you. 

Like holographic highlighter, you believe the feminine fantasy. How it embodies you. Going to middle school parties, punk shows. Young rosy cyborg, you kid! How your hips mark you at every Walgreens, how you shoplift with verve!

I couldn’t approach her. 

Read our interview with Catherine Chen here

Catherine Chen [she/her, they/them] is a poet and performer living in New York. A recipient of fellowships from Poets House, Lambda Literary, and Sundress Academy for the Arts, their work has been published in Slate, The Rumpus, Asian American Writers' Workshop, Apogee, and Nat. Brut, among others. They are the author of the forthcoming chapbook Manifesto, or: Hysteria (Big Lucks).