Written on the Body: Feet

It’s been a while since I last posted because I have really struggled to find something to write about feet.  There are hundreds of facts and ideas but none of them has really captured my imagination.

We speak of itchy feet, of feet born with the desire to travel.  But the feet in this are functional, getting us from one place to another; though the feet may itch, it is the heart (metaphor) and the brain (metaphor) that take us where we want to go.  In this sense, feet are not a metaphor but a tool.  Even when a person is said to have “two left feet” (i.e. being a bad dancer) the focus on feet is concrete in a way that reference to the other body parts I have looked at is not.  There are more metaphors about shoes, footprints, etc.  On that note, I do happen to have written a poem about shoes (kind of) which I will post here in lieu of an actual post about feet.

In Which I Inhabit Your Shoes

I inhabit your shoes.
They are hot as coals
and feel doomed to follow the same steps
again and again.  You inherited pain
and patterns you feel sure to repeat,
dancing that same dance, your feet
moving fast to that beat.

The cost of life is a loss
of blood, of knees in mud
contemplating the river.  Is eyes on tracks,
bringing back the sensation of
falling
and being caught- but that
was a long time ago.

Now even your shadow peels away from you,
afraid to grow up, even as you age
with the rage pent up
and threatening to swallow.

You relive.  You wallow.  Your need
expands, is an echoing hollow
that nothing can fill
and no one can feel
but you
though you cry for them to.

Your need
becomes a greed.  Your hunger
goes on long after it’s fed.

I inhabit your shoes.
They are heavy as concrete, as lead.

Written on the Body: Liver

images

My liver may be fucked but my heart is honest
(Passenger, Things that stop you dreaming)

For the ancient Greeks, the liver was the organ in closest contact with divinity.  They practiced something called hepatoscopy, which was the ritual sacrifice of oxen or goats, examining their livers to determine whether a military campaign would succeed or fail.

Hepatoscopy 

The flames lapped at the air, hot tongues
with no mouths, no heads, no bodies.
Outside the circle, her body lay bloodied,
incision turned skywards,
the shape of an eye, unseeing.
The liver, seemingly beating,
lay inside the circle by the fire,
surrounded by their feet.  It was full of blood
that itched towards the divine,
lit by fire, glistening, burning,
becoming still and dry.
From its remains they sought to reveal
the will of the gods, cutting it open to divine
the outcome of a marriage, a battle, a birth.
In the earth they left their markings
scorched and hardened by the heat
from passing thought into prophecy.
Meanwhile,  the goat lay open, just outside,
with eye-shaped cut and red, half-hooded eyes.

Written on the Body: Bone

Image result for funnybones

As you may know I am writing a series of posts inspired by the 2016 Mslexia writers’ diary.  Each post will focus on a body part.  Today’s theme is Bone.

Your skin,
Oh yeah your skin and bones
Turn in
to something beautiful
(Coldplay, Yellow)

Beneath our clothes, our skin, our fat, our muscle, we are 3D jigsaws of bone wrapped protectively around some organs.  Without these jigsaws, we would be masses of jelly sprawled out mostly motionless across the ground.  Our organs would be easy prey.  We wouldn’t last.  Insults like “spineless” or “no backbone” conjure images of people unable to hold themselves up, unable to stand up for what they believe in.  Strong bones are important not just literally but also metaphorically.  In metaphor, just as skin should not be thin, bone should not be brittle, fragile, lacking or weak.  Bone is what we are based on, so it had better be hardy.

Like our skin, our bones regenerate themselves.  Roughly every 7 years, we effectively replace each bone.  This fact surprised me on reading.  Bone seems like something constant.  When all else is gone, bones are the lasting part of us, the part that will lie in the earth undecaying for centuries.  We find the bones of dinosaurs, extinct mammals and human beings.  Bones survived the volcanic eruption at Pompeii.  We learn from the bones we excavate.

Because bones are the part of us that survives burial, bones also teach us about the rituals associated with death at any given time.  Bones show us where graves once lay, and the things alongside the bones (pottery, coins, jewellery) allow us to read into what meaning was associated with those graves.  We see elephants mourn over the bones of their own and we understand that for them, as for us, death is imbued with meaning.

Despite this, bones are also linked inextricably with life.  As they are constantly renewing, they require food and oxygen just as we do.  They are a living part of us and when we die, though they do not dissolve, they stop regenerating.  Bones arrested in time.  This is what is so fascinating about bones.  Their clues about deaths.  Their ties to life.  Their constant renewal contrasted with their longevity.

As I write these posts, I am finding that each body part, both in terms of real experience and in terms of metaphor, are ridden with contradictions.  This is what has captured my attention.

The poem below (under construction) attempts to suture the deadness of bone with the goings-on of life.  It really needs a revision (or seven) but, as they say, here are the bare bones of it.  Haha.

Bone

We whittled away at the bones, each day,
to make our toys: sharp fighting sticks
and pens to scratch the earth
to show we’d been.  Bone
created alibi, our signatures in dust
proved we must have walked
each patch of land.  Older,
I once asked my sister
to forge my sign, so I could ride from town
to meet my love.
We took up knives of bone, worn blunt
from overuse, our names entwined
against a tree as old and wise as bone
(but softer, and prone to decay).
And she whittled me a little coin
to wear around my neck
because I couldn’t stay.

Why Do We Fall?

We fall asleep.  We fall in love.  We fall to pieces.
Always a cliff’s edge, or that last stair waiting to trip us.
Falling asleep, we fall like angels, descending into a realm we can’t control.
Falling in love, we fall flat on our faces, we risk looking stupid, exposing our arses.
Falling to pieces?  We have fallen apart, jigsaws in the rain.
Why do we fall?
We fall asleep to rise in dreams.
We fall in love to stand up within it, to grow from our position on our knees.
We fall to pieces, fall apart and like Humpty Dumpty, slipped off his wall,
All the king’s horses and all the king’s men
Could never put us together again—
No.  We have to do that for ourselves.
Why do we fall?
We fall to rise,
To stand up,
To grow.

What I’m Giving Up

The fumble and the spark.  That’s what I’ll miss, that little ritual.  Matches: both cheap and pretentious, a difficult combination to come by.  The stick breathes gently on its own, streaming into the air.  Its mouth is a little fire.

Occupation for my hands and lips, to keep me out of trouble.  A calming thing.  Once, a friend told me that the breaths you take while smoking are similar to the breathing techniques they teach you for managing panic attacks.  I can believe that.  The number of times I’ve sat holding tears in one hand and a cigarette in the other.  Steady, steady.  The light shaking in the dark.

I knew a man who could roll a cigarette while riding a bicycle.  I wonder if learning to roll would be a good idea.  Cheaper, and an even better ritual.  Lay out the papers, the baccie, the tips.  Thumbs and index fingers.

Everyone tells me not to give up just yet.  That this thing is stressful enough without adding to my own trouble.  They don’t know that I only started last year.  Who knew that at twenty-six I would still be susceptible to peer pressure?

Even now, when anyone else lights up I follow suit.  It’s become automatic.  They reach for their papers and I reach for my lighter.  When I’m around people I go up to ten a day.

I blow out my match just as it burns my fingertip.  Take a deep breath and try not to think about any of it.

Flick ash, blow smoke and watch the hazy moon.