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  • Jessica Lee McMillan

The Body Is a Fantastical Story

Narrative free verse on imaginative self-creation

Image from prettysleepy on Pixabay. Original from Century Magazine Cover. CC.


The stained patch on my arm is a cipher where the Author left a clue, a grafted map of stories to traverse with volumes of tales inside: my body, the moving house.

The Author binds worlds like appendages, makes wormholes in spacetime, collapsing centuries and ontological divides, constructing houses of no floors and a city of words with people of joint desire both to leave and to remain.

She stitches text in myriad fixtures with silk ropes, jute and fishing wire; with the bible, with fairytales re-inscribed, and history through a woman’s eyes.

When I took my first steps, leg after leg, I could only see one mountain but then got lost in a range, amazed in overwhelmed stupor, lost in a warp of years forgetting my stories, forgetting the time, surrendering unnarrated quartered & slumped in a pile, awaiting reanimation.

The valley can be a grave when wings can’t decide on whether to stay or to remain. Being a nomad has logistics and I forgot to unfold the text the space in the mass, the lightness in the weight, the web in the lines, all manifold journeys in my legs.

In the room with no floors or the valley — just the same  — I forgot the trick of navigation in remembering possibility.

The baseline called reality is just the story constantly revised, untied, a route between lines, a truth in disappearing ink.

So I am a nomad in place, translating seams of many planes with bird’s-eye imagination.

Looking at my patchwork body, of silvery scars, geographical marks, I realized I was forever a transplant and lived stories wherever I was (the double-edge of adventuring is that home no longer makes sense).

And this was how she wanted it, the journey I am taking: through wormholes, never whole, being that we are never-ending stories.

So the stories unfold into one another, never finding home but another line, another limb, starting with my right arm, my fingers sewn to books.

The body is a fantastical story , always going, always remaining in sutured paper and cartographical skin rewriting the imagination in the contours of place.


Jessica Lee McMillan © 2021


Inspired by my living literary hero, Jeanette Winterson. This poem is an autobiographical journey into her book Sexing the Cherry.

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