30FOR30 Poetry Challenge: April 24

Week Four: Social/Political
April 24th: Write a poem about body politics.

Today’s prompt is to write a poem about body politics. “Body politics” can be defined in varying ways. One way, and the most common definition found on Google, concerns itself with a group of people under the same government. Or “body politics” can be defined as how one abides by the rules placed on their physical body–their person. Or maybe there’s another definition you cling to when you hear this phrase. Whatever definition you feel, write to that definition.

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Here’s a poem by Sasha Pimentel Chacón:

Blood, Sister

1.

is here in my rectum, knees and liver, here in your pulse and in your ears

is in the pounding wash inside your ears

each time you step before a jeepney, tricycle or taxi; here when you tap

on their windows with your tightened knuckles

and your smutted skin hits the glass and unfolding your face

from its poverty, you ask them, a bottle of root beer, a drink of Sarsi?

This blood pours out of you

flowers into bruises

each time you ask, because you must

often, you are outside of them, and they are inside the car, bus, or pedicab: they

are going somewhere

– you are not, and they refuse your drink because

you are not clean. Blood Sister, all along the squirming streets of Manila

your countrymen have forgotten you, and your knocks

do little to rouse them; they crawl on like before

on this, your stage, your cacophony of masques, where you enter

the smallest player

and offer them your usquebaugh

and beg them to drink.

2.

This is the memory I am making up of you, little sister

from your photograph which uncurls like a plucked flower

on my refrigerator door, your face like an apostrophe, such an open

and tightened mark all at once – hesitating

to unwind, just on the brink

of telling me a secret. Do I not know you? Do we not bleed

the same

knurled feet

walking along Bataan with our American soldiers,

the same

angled hands

holding poisoned rice before the thrust of a Japanese bayonet,

do we not

both stink

from the skin with fermented shrimp paste

and glisten

with sweat

for the honeycombs of a soup of tripe?

Do we not

both bleed

of last names like an open mouth,

names made

from tongues

pressing clamshells behind the teeth?

I am rolling it out as I go along, I know

I am pushing you open

from myself, and you are so delicious to me,

the plumped flesh of a spined head of shrimp

I have sucked down whole.

3.

And look what capitalism

has unmade me: a maker of poems.

A squiggly line, a raised scab.

Had you my father with his passports,

with his hope like the great blue vein

on his forehead of leaving the country

where we were made, where our mothers grunted

onto their bamboo mats, their throats

contracting into the exact moment of our

conception, where that city holds you still

on her thighs blossoming with colors

like the purple yam, where she is holding

you exactly where she has been hit again

and again, would you be

very different from me?

Perhaps we could have been

engineers, or doctors eating cancer

or mothers blooming down our

blouses-what you

could have pressed the puckered mouths

to drink! – drink! into their gurgling throats –

4.

Sister, you consume me.

The handbill that comes

with your picture

says we are a gentle people,

says you like dancing

doing chores and sweeping

says you have dandruff

and have just begun menstruation;

it says before your ovary unwound

you thought the female egg

like those yellowed ovals

(the fermented / the contained young)

your brothers peddle

nested in newspaper,

the eggs I have eaten before

and felt the feathers

soft beak soft bones

slide down my own gullet.

5.

What slum we thought Manila had come to when our emigrant selves returned,

what good luck the start we had struck in New York – See your birthright!

My mother motioned from the cab window, see the vinegar peddler, the street children,

the multitudes of hotels swaying and crouching on Pleasure Street,

and see that old man entering that girl for a peso!

But oh, what home I had never known

we came to, to see my grandfather sink

into his sickbed, to see Grandmother cry out no, not now,

you’d promised we’d the together. Oh, what home

I’d found, took pain and pleasure in then, each

black eye a part of my own, what blooded body

I could finally drink in – drink of the children

like chattering clamshells, drink of their smooth bones

full of sound. What a wonderful print this chain

of knuckles made on my cab window from the girl

selling bottles, glass bottles clinking

like treble chimes on her arm.

6.

Balut! Balut!

We eat the developing body and I eat you my blood

my sullied brown knock-knee, my sponsored child

my limbs and bowed shins, my little squatter hemorrhaging into the river, darling

muezzin who calls me to feast on your intestine

– Blood Sister do you hear me?

I am crawling up your ear canal, I am the loudness in your pulse

I am the dhole, the lynx caracal, who are feasting on your throat

I am the hatchel in your hair, and at your elbow with papillote

I am the eyeful, the fistful, the severed self

I am the countryman who has run, is underdone, and undone

and I am the tightened asshole, the sliced onion

and builder of all shanties; friend, I am your disease

and I am at ease, and I am the tangle, the small ravel,

the singing philomel, friend, and I am the knell

the giant clamshell, the tolling city bells – sister! I am the Yell

– the yell

in your stomach, your own yell,

and I am eating you

because you take my place

in the streets.

You fill my mouth

because I am empty

of memory, birthright,

the bruise of begging,

empty

and this is hunger, this is hunger.


Feel free to post your piece in the comments!

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