Anavah by Rena Yehuda Newman
I first heard the voice of Hashem in fourth grade on a
school field trip to the Grand Rapids Public Museum’s
planetarium. My head tipped back beneath the dome of
night sky, the sun setting in the west, Orion rising in the
east, stereo sound all around me.
It hadn’t dawned on me before then that the stars each
night were the same, arranged in their fixed positions,
on rotation, or that the stars had a collective meaning,
passed down from our ancestors, mirror of myth and
The planetarium made each of us anonymous to our-
selves, each of us rapt at our own awe, our own smallness,
the night sky we rarely went outside to notice. Hashem
subconsulting as interpreter of it all.
After school, I built a ramp out of plywood and 2x4
endpieces, set on the driveway curb and practiced riding
my bike off the jump, over and over, in an ellipses, until
called in for dinner.
That night, Orion rising outside my window, I made up stories about the animals in the woodgrain of my closet
door. I wanted to be a cartographer, drew mazes of concentric geometric shapes on the backsides of all my homework.
I wanted to be able to point to the land and say to Hashem, to myself Here I Am. This is where I belong. Diaspora of Gravatron and orange slices at half time and Wilson baseball mitt so stiff I sat on it the whole way to my cousin’s house.
What does it mean to be a disembodied people? To build a Sukkah out of your own softness, an amphitheater out of your own shoulders, never really home in your own skin.
I started binding in high school. I was in marching band, each of us memorizing our trajectory across hash marks and yard lines, overlaying the scatter chart of our bodies with the sheet music running in our heads. I loved the way the uniform broadened my shoulders and fell flat across my chest and the way it felt to stand androgynous in the stadium lights under so many stars.
I drove a Chevy S10 and listened to B-93 Country and wanted to be a cowboy. The football stadium was backed by cornfields on three sides. Diaspora of jockstraps and old spice and glacier freeze gatorade.
To live disembodied is to constantly triangulate between compass bearings, between land and starrise, between flesh and phantom. Here I Am.
Years later, my love and I say the shehecheyanu over our new dildo. Outside our bedroom window, the stars are the same as they’d always been, like a backdrop on a crank. I live two thousand miles away, and still Michigan is in me. My mom’s mom grew up on a dairy farm, cutting paper dolls out of Sears catalogs. My dad’s mom grew up big breasted, squinting into the sun. Here I am. Constellation made from connecting their dots.
In the Talmud, I learn the Hebrew word for the Pleiades, Kimah, accumulation, binding. The constellation that heralded in the planting season. It is the Lite Brite of the human mind to make shapes from mere pixels, then fashion whole stories, a wheel to keep time by.
My body, I decide, is a hologram. An aggregate of all its iterations, visible only as a collective.
Cara Stoddard is a Seattle-based writer who holds a MFA from the University of Idaho and a BA from the College of Wooster. Their work has appeared in The Gettysburg Review, Fourth Genre, Terrain, and Ninth Letter, among others, and has been nominated for a Pushcart and the John Burroughs Nature Essay award. Their first book manuscript, Spirography, was a semifinalist in Autumn House Press's Nonfiction contest. You can find more about their writing at https://www.carastoddard.com/writing