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.
Here’s a poem by Sasha Pimentel Chacón:
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.
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
walking along Bataan with our American soldiers,
holding poisoned rice before the thrust of a Japanese bayonet,
do we not
from the skin with fermented shrimp paste
for the honeycombs of a soup of tripe?
Do we not
of last names like an open mouth,
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.
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
could have pressed the puckered mouths
to drink! – drink! into their gurgling throats –
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.
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.
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,
and this is hunger, this is hunger.
Feel free to post your piece in the comments!