This is Your Body Speaking (ii)

           This is Your Body Speaking (ii)


It is impossible, you think, to identify
anything in this nearly all-black
celluloid of your guts. You think back
to tenth-grade biology, but can recall
only the stench of formaldehyde,
the serene look upon the piglet's face.
You think you recognize the white tines
of ribcage, the twin kidneys, the long
crinkled streamer of small intestine.
but on a large slab of gray, you see
the white mass -- which you do not
recognize from any diagram --
round and obvious as the moon,
and somehow, whatever it is,
know it can shift the tide inside of you,
send everything swaying in its pull.

Lisa Mangini
Bird Watching at the End of the World

This is Your Body Speaking (ii) 
Lisa Mangini


what it means

A person is looking at an x-ray or some other picture of her internal organs.  At first she recognizes nothing.  Then the shapes start to match up with organs she learned about in 10th grade biology, and eventually she sees a mass which should not be there.

The moment you realize you have an invader in your body, that disease is in control.

Is it better to know or not know the secrets of our bodies?  This speaker comes to a slow revelation and knows her life will never be the same both from the disease and from knowing about it.


why I like it

I like that I did not know where the poem was headed.  When the speaker says the celluloid was nearly all black, I believed her.  I thought, maybe it's going to be a poem about our disconnect with the medical establishment.  Then when she sees the shapes, I thought, oh now we are about the power and limits of memory, and I'm going to stop and admire the parallel between her on the slab and the serene look on the piglet's face.  Then the poem surprises me again with the last turn.



I went to a talk recently about the importance of turns in a poem.  I often do it by switching worlds--suddenly there's a fish, a tangerine!  She does it by staying in the same world and seeing more.

I've also been thinking a lot about how to books together, and I am intrigued by repeated titles to keep a theme flowing through the book.  You don't have the book in front of you (and perhaps you should), but Mangini also gives us "This is Your Body Speaking" i and iii.