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Large Intestine

October 17, 2016

I’ve been getting around on crutches for twelve days now, ever since my erstwhile good knee went bad. I have another two days to go and then the day of “ambulatory surgery” on Thursday. I have hopes of being able to get around without crutches by this time next week.

But I’ve been able to do a lot of the things I usually do without being able to walk. I read and write and think, send and answer e-mails, grade papers, all those things I spend most of my time on, disregarding my body. I’m mad at my body right now, to tell you the truth, particularly the knees, which have let me down before (left knee in 1983, 1996, 2006, right knee in 1999 and now, 2016).

It’s like in this poem by Anna Swir, “Large Intestine,” from Talking to My Body, translated by Czeslaw Milosz and Leonard Nathan:

Look in the mirror. Let us both look.
Here is my naked body.
Apparently you like it,
I have no reason to.
Who bound us, me and my body?
Why must I die
together with it?
I have the right to know where the borderline
between us is drawn.
Where am I, I, I myself.

Belly, am I in the belly? In the intestines?
In the hollow of the sex? In a toe?
Apparently in the brain. I do not see it.
Take my brain out of my skull. I have the right
to see myself. Don’t laugh.
That’s macabre, you say.

It’s not me who made
my body.
I wear the used rags of my family,
an alien brain, fruit of chance, hair
after my grandmother, the nose
glued together from a few dead noses.
What do I have in common with all that?
What do I have in common with you, who like
my knee, what is my knee to me?

I would have chosen a different model.

I will leave both of you here,
my knee and you.
Don’t make a wry face, I will leave you all my body
to play with.
And I will go.
There is no place for me here,
in this blind darkness waiting for
I will run out, I will race
away from myself.
I will look for myself
like crazy
till my last breath.

One must hurry
before death comes. For by then
like a dog jerked by its chain
I will have to return
into this stridently suffering body.
To go through the last
most strident ceremony of the body.

Defeated by the body,
slowly annihilated because of the body

I will become kidney failure
or the gangrene of the large intestine.
And I will expire in shame.

And the universe will expire with me,
reduced as it is
to a kidney failure
and the gangrene of the large intestine.

I especially love the line about the knee: “I would have chosen a different model.” Boy, wouldn’t I! (My kids say they hope they’ve gotten their knees from Ron’s side of the family.)

I also like the lines about escaping from the body: “I will run out, I will race /away from myself.” Oh, that such a thing were possible, running…

Do you have a body part that lets you down? Tell me about it; misery loves company.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. October 17, 2016 7:07 am

    I laughed when I read the poem, but honestly, I don’t think of my body that way. I guess it’s Been letting me down since I was a kid and it decided to stop breathing properly, but I don’t feel mad. I always kind of admire it; the way it keeps functioning in “safety” mode even when it’s under attack from the environment, the way it diligently keeps trying to repair itself no matter what I do to it. It’s my faithful soldier and I love it for its determination and steadfastness. I heard a poem once, and I wish I had written it down, which likens the body’s ability to scab over to minting a coin – a coin inscribed, “in God We Trust.” I love that.

    • October 17, 2016 8:15 am

      You are nicer than I am. Perhaps I should try to adopt your attitude–I like the image of the faithful soldier who you love for its determination and steadfastness.
      I do not love my body. But I could try to like it better.

  2. October 17, 2016 7:12 am

    Lol, delete that, would you, Jeanne? Here is the actual poem, “Ode to Healing.” Hope it helps your recovery!

  3. October 17, 2016 9:59 am

    I think I live in a perpetually dissociated state from my body. It IS amazing in the sense that the human body is amazing, but my personal relationship with my own body is mostly adversarial. When I am my best self (which I am not right now), I’m more integrated and appreciative of it. But in my day to day careening around, I think I tend to see it and use it as a tool, although I’m reminded of Dr. Strangelove’s arm, and sometimes feel like the MIB “bug” in Vincent D’Onofrio’s Edgar-suit. Right now I have bone spur under my right knee cap. I thought THAT was the problem, but the doc says no, the bone spur is actually my body’s (somewhat pathetic) attempt to heal itself from an already-present arthritic condition. All the limping has caused long-term plantar fasciitis in my left foot, which is also a painful and bothersome thing. It’s a small compared to what you’re going through, and what so many people have to contend with, but it’s a big deal to me in how it limits what I can do and makes exercising and maintaining strength that much harder. So I sympathize with your knee plight (!) and hope you are freed up again soon. 🙂

    • October 17, 2016 2:17 pm

      I’m glad to hear that someone else I know feels adversarial towards her body, although not glad to hear that you are experiencing the kind of wear and tear that does make it hard to exercise, let alone go through your daily activities cheerfully!

  4. October 17, 2016 11:40 am

    I wish you a good surgery and speedy recovery!

    I am pretty pleased with my body. I does so many amazing things and is amazingly resilient. Sure it lets me down, I could do without all of the allergies, being taller would have been nice, and while I have and do work to increase my upper-body strength, it will never be as strong as I would like it to be. But I work with what I have and what I have lets me do the things I love like gardening and cycling and reading and eating, watching sunrises and feeling wind and rain and snow on my skin. With a different body I would be a different person and I like who I am and I feel lucky and grateful.

    • October 17, 2016 2:26 pm

      This is a healthier attitude than mine. I should try it on, like a suit of clothes…
      Incidentally, being taller would make you more prone to knee problems.

      • October 17, 2016 3:34 pm

        Really? I wouldn’t have to be much taller, I’d be happy with 5’6″ just so it would be easier to find things that fit me and so my tall parents and sister wouldn’t be able to make fun of me 🙂

        • October 17, 2016 5:55 pm

          There’s also an increased cancer risk (if you have a bigger body, it has more cells, so there are more cells that can possibly go wrong).
          Of course, I know nothing about having tall relatives and being shorter.
          I used to tell people in HS that I was 5’12”

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