A Diagram of Partial Anatomy

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Poetry  |  House: Booksie Classic

a poetic fictionalization of a human anatomy


First Stratum

(fig.1) Clothing, because you are the most naked animal. Fibers you cannot make or see, the hard work of other, more valuable creatures. This is where the Lord seems to have lost His head for a moment.  What were we supposed to do?  As there are not enough pelts to go around, we endure and perpetuate an infinite succession of flesh-robbing and refitting.  No, it doesn't bother me, the sensation of skin on skin. Or we could grow cotton somewhere hot, soak rags in gasoline and wrap them around our ankles to deter the thirst of biting insects, then try to weave what threads we can without conjuring the memory of sunburn and chiggers.  If that's any more appealing.  Better to simply dress without regard to history, to heat or chill, wind or wet.  A man quivering through the translucence of his damp, blanched underclothes should be inspiration enough.  When fashion molts and reveals the body as an unnamable being, a living thing limping in-between indescribability and human culmination, you'll have an idea of what to wear.

(fig.2) Cosmetics, since you weren't ugly enough.  Still, you have no idea what's in these.

I can promise not just rosehips, tea oil, and talc. There is not a single substance on earth

actually in possession of anti-aging properties, you know.  It might be worth noting that the color you become isn't a color at all, just the mud-hue of every color crushed into a basic, lightless paste.  Liquefied beetles are the primary ingredient in lipstick.  And any other substance will consist  primarily of wax.  A good coating ensures invaluable numbness, allows you to have no memorable taste, a diminished ability to detect the air with your dermis. I don't want to feel what's coming.  I just want to be beautiful.

(ref.) Other personal accoutrements may include:

orthodontic wires (to torture the teeth into place,) wigs (no use in scalping,)

hearing aids (if the batteries are any good,) bandages (to hold back blood, await platelets,)  false lashes (to avoid eyes from across the room, screw these on and shut out the vision of yourself,) dentures (eventually bear all responsibility for every word you spit,) breathing tubes (may you never need your air boiled through a tank,) spectacles (small mirrors, the oedipal glass of self-reflection,) acrylic nails (frequent, unmotivated tapping,) glass eyes (adopted children, never loved right and there for all the wrong reasons,) shackles (to cage you without bars, to be moderately free, to be moderately dead,) piercings (general atonement,) wedding rings (precious metal is selling at all-time highs,) gold teeth (same principle,) sutures (a stitch in deep time,) plaster casts (to mend what's broken, we ought to be buried in them,) and chewing gum (as a courtesy to the rest of us.)

Second Stratum

(fig.3) Skin, makes the man.  According to diagram.  It stretches from the holes of hair follicles to the coral pricks of the fingertips, sheets continuously over the torso, never seeming to terminate.  No seam to be found, no unnatural stitch, not a single patch of foreign substance.  Scar tissue just as legitimate as the trembling opalescence of the lower lip.  Like a thick, slow-moving syrup, it fills every fleshy divot.  Vanity attempts to regulate the dermal system, but this is no simple task.  As diffusing screen, barb-wire fencing, and the cellophane holding all atmosphere at bay, skin winces and tires easily.  With age, it learns to free itself from function, to become a looser and looser fitting glove, until it is a mitten, until it is a slack, deflated balloon.  What this picture does not show is the congregation of microscopic trash slithering over it, population of the epidermis swollen with new germs.  The sky soaking us in glaring, odious plasma is no help.  Despite its sensitivity, our largest organ  has little choice but to take the brunt of it, to record the war in an inscrutable language of discoloration.  Overexposure to reddening elements, biting flies and brutally bare sun,  coerce a falsely amorous skin tone, raspberry-kissed, so when pressed we bleed out a stinging juice.  The purr of dermis becomes all the more moving in the light of these many abrasions, still it rises to meet every touch, like the arching back of a sweet-tempered feline.

(fig.4) Eyeballs, each contain a microcosm, annihilated in one blink and born again in another.  What they do boast is surface calm;  irises float like cornflower petals in a china cup, pink veins lap the bottom of each glossy lobe as though a small, red sun were rising nearby.  A sweep of lashes filter light with their delicate skyline.  The eyes may appear overemphasized. Such an aesthetic fuss over a mere camera!  But peering through the ramparts of the face with curiosity and want, each pupil sits as a demigod at the center of Everything, fanning himself, describing the world: our garden has erupted in tongues, the tongues of butterflies, unfurled to taste the low, warm syrupy smoke of tigerlily fire. Yellow finches bend weak boughs or bounce on golden rod, searching for sugar and larva.  Other black-eyed blooms tilt their curiosity to the ground as rain runs through their retinas, having themselves a good, quenching cry. Roses shake with the devouring movements of black-limbed beetles.  Some grass rolled flat by a cat, some dirt rounded and pearlized by the temporary digestion of stomachless worms, a few pink pebbles catching light, dandelions relegated outside the plot mourn, whiten, and blow apart.  The eyes revel in the notion that no one and nothing can see them, that their ability is unmatched almost anywhere in the universe.  Despite their arrogance, they may yet be blinded by age, illness, or most likely, a simple froth of uncontrolled tendrils in errant drift.

(fig.5) Hair, grows even longer in death, trailing the corpse like the tail of a comet.  Just delicate and weightless enough to persist to see the spirit depart the body and push off into space.  To a Heavenly observer, humanity falls in a climactic meteor shower; reflective strands of dust and ice whip against our black, stone faces, lending us dimension and character.  We are not birds dropping dead mid-flight, not lizards.  Our brilliant, streaming skulls shoot beneath the combing fingers of sun, curlicues flaring, hoping to crash somewhere barren and hushed.

(fig.6) Ears, easily enough blindsided by an over-abundance of quiet.  Loneliness reverberates against their grooves like the lingering pulsation of a siren gone past.  A backfiring automobile demands a near-silence that brings the audible world to such immediate, destructive stillness that the ears ring with it for days.  And unlike other organs, they cannot shut themselves, cannot mute the uneasy calm of a stifling, self-deafened world.  They are haunted by echo, fooled by the mind into thinking whatever is talking at them must be nearby and friendly.  Their truest love lies in what they cannot hear, in a pair of familiar lips slowly tracing their contours, filling them with sweltry breath.

(fig.7) Mouth, lounges in languid repose upon the face, wet and dilapidated, like an old porch given way to rot after snow has receded.  Its disrepair sends obvious signals to the critical passerby; Those lips lit up so brazenly with blood, still smacking with satisfaction over some recent pleasure! Those teeth grown in as they please, raggedly asymmetrical, no doubt hammered into place by a fondness for drink!  Certainly, the mouth seems like the hole the Devil's most likely to escape from and will most want to climb back into.  I suppose the only way out of this world at all is through the teeth, against the current of the river.  A working tongue ferries thought to the other side.

Third Stratum

(fig.8) Brains, to interpret and anticipate the whims of the universe.  A troubled globule, packed to the point of claustrophobia within the cranium; by the time you get a thought to your lips, it's dead.  Verbiage hits the floor like bullets rolling off an uneven table.  The faculty sits so high, any landscape distorts from the distance.  The glimmery horizon line consciousness perceives (adores, and weds) is as unreachable and unreal as consciousness itself, as Heaven is inaccessible to a material body, no matter how pristine.  The subconscious is not a universe, it is not an ocean, it is not a desert.  It is not a precise void, although it must be a void of sorts because it cannot be properly filled.  If it is filled, it cannot be emptied.  It is derelict to the point of being unsalvageable, and should not be worshipped.  It is a circle of paper-thin glass.  The brain will dispute its own substance into the early morning hours, and, subsequently, cannot show you anything unseen.  It can picture the eye sockets with a fat diamond in each. Only picture though, merely delude.  As a melancholic addict, it fails to see anything other than blank bone walls and its despairing nail marks etched into the soft plaster.  Ignorant of anything beyond this self-prescribed haze, it lives in miserable dependency on its enablers.  So, the brain undoes itself cyclically, like most other orbs.  One half goes dark, but not before going mad with the thought (of turning toward the open throat of existence and pouring out in a collective, forgetful tide) and the other half glistens with chemical light, fervently doses the nerves in electric drizzle, revealing the intention of the body using a purifying dopamine bath, soaking the spinal cord, striking a match, and stepping back.

(fig.9) Nerves, overly sympathetic to the plight of each cellular cosmos on the verge of being shed, the bleeding heart of all the internal systems.  Cracked, floral wires divulge wave after wave of inarguably sensed maxims.  The nerves live sleeplessly, loathing their responsibility. Regret throbs at the core of our lust as it smolders beneath the stomach, just as the amber center of fire is the force that brings a kettle to boil.  Every panicked, needle-sharp breath drawn is intensified by the guilt of its interpreters.  The distinct, yet undesired, honor of devising pain and rationalizing sin belong to these tongues of the spine, and surely without their snakelike discernment man would be swallowed into madness by the slightest accidental touch.

(fig.10) Stomach, A second, more irritable brain (like that of a drunk,) prone to passionate, acidic fits and as covetous of pleasure as lower organs. The gut thinks of little but wanting; it dreams of externalization, of becoming a viscid liquid expelled, absorbing savory victims in a boundless flood.  Ignored by the mind and considered heathenish by the soul, the gullet is utterly friendless, stewing miserably in a mixture of half-digested acquisitions and sour belly water.  Before long, it resigns itself to bad temper.  The stomach will suck itself up, with the indignant inhalation of a child on the verge of tantrum, and howl until it quakes, until it swoons into a hiccupping sleep.  Softer, more sophisticated organs hanging above sigh and cluck in mock concern.

(fig.11) Lungs, one of few angelic organs, performing purgatorial rites on inbound blood.  With gloved hands, with an unbearable neuroticism, they wring themselves out over and over again. After intense exertion or anxiety (the prospect of their demise is a rather heavy burden for their build) they look to preoccupy themselves sorting out even more plasma, picking toxic debris from the system with the same disgusted haughtiness you might exhibit when removing a stray hair from a plate of food. But sympathy please, for these poor, flimsy things, moths mesmerized by the heart's flame, flitting rapidly in fear and blind adoration of the luminous ventricles and the midnight-colored corpse that encases them both.

(fig.12) Heart.  Well, recall the warmest wind to ever give you a chill, to stun you with a shivering kiss in the midst of August.  Or the heart's temperature may be simulated by walking between cars paused at a stoplight in winter.  Perhaps it is only a faucet that has trouble turning from hot to cold.  I understand that this a diagram, and that almost necessarily, as author of the document I ought to know, or have squared with, what these organs mean.  Yet, I am discovering that it is unfair to burden the heart with definitive terms; if you wish to utilize it as an essential, physical system you must also as a feeling, as an ancillary soul.  A latent, schizophrenic personality who has blown the sky apart with a gun-shaped hand (thrashed cloud-flesh drapes across the clotted moon.)  The heart muscle is well known to make such masochistic notions real, to cut through the yellow tape of cranial thought to execute severe, ecstatic requests without retaining any memory of them, without guilt.  Crime as passion, one might say.  Such a funny, quivering face it has, though.  An old man's puffed up with blood, purpling from the cold.

(fig.13) Blood, just an overwrought myth (c'est ne pas grave!) dyed the dirty, rosy blue of liquid detergent.  Early on, The Lord felt an unavoidable pang, He sensed our longing to sin before we'd even been thought up properly.  From that pang He brewed blood.  It began as a swampy, unseasonable rain.  Nothing torrential or destructive, a gradual flood born of obstinacy, of single-mindedness. Once funneled into us, into all ambulatory, self-warming life, it grew tempestuous, like an oil forced out of the Earth and confined to labyrinthine piping.  Any opportunity to leak, to rediscover the surface world it was divided from, is taken (through the skin, with enormous speed, blood finds the air and revels in the scintillating freedom of spreading into a shape of its own choosing.)  Invariably, it will crawl out of the flesh and into external reality, forgetting the tasks it was charged with; But it must be a dream, purely a dream!  It cannot be animating me, even now!  

(not pictured.) Liver, spleen, pancreas, gallbladder, appendix, kidneys, etc.

These screamless, ineffective explosives are squeamishly unbelievable as

parts intended to remain whole (I have nuclear-bomb-anxiety,)

to support a life that cannot truly know them. But your soul lies not

in your tonsils for a reason.  We were actually made from discarded wristwatches.

That I would believe.  At this depth, there is no suggestion of sun or any stars, only varying atmospheres of  iridescently-hued black: darkened scarlet, purplish blue, and jade cascading like the moon-washed walls of a circus tent.

Fourth Stratum

(fig.14) Musculature, a tapestry of tendons and sinews spun masterfully by genetic spinneret.  Ruby threads woven to illustrate some gory medieval scene.  I am reminded that we can be killed just as gruesomely as saints, but with far less renown.  Before martyrs are martyred they are ruined a little at a time.  Emptied until their skin is loose with space, then left in the sun until it shrinks to the bone.  Covered in tiny, haphazard stab wounds that are not remembered. They may have been inflicted simultaneously, in a dream.  A martyr never runs from his torturer, only protests out of the most vile weakness.  As the bare muscles are revealed by the stroke of some crude, violent instrument, they swell and spread so that the body may cower into half-moon shape, reflecting a white and then flesh colored facet, like cloudy river water reflects as it flows over a bed of red clay.

(fig.15) Bones, that fashion your skeleton, are very much alive, and changing all the time.  In subtle shifts they realign themselves closer and denser, just as the stars tend to shrink and drift out of constellation.  The Lord long desired to make a man out of pure white stones, who would be nauseated by lust and had no use for thought, who would be perfectly content to sit on the craggy curb of the earth and wait for oblivion (this is the skeleton buried within.)  His stick-like sculpture is comprised of parts that sound as cutting as they prove to be; femurs and tibia that stretch out slowly, as stalactites are elongated by rainwater (of course, whole men may pick up and go,) the ribs curve into a slightly open hand that delicately clasps the vitals (like you might hold an insect,) the phalanges, wiry and white, descend in quick strikes to turn what they touch to gooseflesh, and the spine faithfully mimics a pale, scorching eel.  If this diverse, ossified society cannot knit together faithfully it will devastate the practical and aesthetic structure of man.  As you crack your backbone and snap your neck and pop your knuckles, you slowly deteriorate the only permanent structure a soul can hope to stick itself to.  All it would take is a sudden jerk of the skull in an unexpected direction to weaken everything to the consistency and stability of a boiled egg.  See, it's no good drawing these bones as a unified, concrete system.  They are illusions, a tangle of bleached ropes and strings in silhouette against a dark wall.

Après le corps

(final figure.)

The human body, whole (uncited.)

The androgynous anatomy is full of itself.  It would prefer you to ignore the diagram altogether.  The truth is that the body is a melted rubber mask hung on a coat rack, clothed in discarded outerwear.  It is the shape of a body, the disguise of humanity, and one placed in a dark corner may startle you, if you happen upon it unknowingly.  But for some, with better equipped imaginations, it is something more fantastical.  How assuredly it resembles snakes! So many slices of python moving in unison, a leather whip unfurling its circle with the intent of inciting panic in whatever small beast it has cornered.  Which may in fact be only the world itself, cowering in the shade of our powerfully corporeal form.  Although, as we are made of the same stuff, the upper hand is only in the mind.

If a body is to be loved, it must first be dissected.  Problem being after you've taken it apart you're not left with much.  Even exact, precise reconstruction renders up an entirely different being.  Once you've finally attained the will to love something, you've probably already willed it out of existence.  Then the body taunts us by not decaying outright, by holding on to its form and auxiliary functions for days, weeks after death.  It sighs and shudders with the incremental loss of self, like a tire leaking air.  It re-enacts its death as it happens, in an infinite loop unfinishing.

The hope of humanity, apparently, lies in the unknown persons thriving, yet strangling, within us; Their prayer to be expelled in a muscular flush of sea water, to sense light in real time, is palpable.  I am going to see if I can't save myself instead by disallowing a single new, unlovable person into the world.  Reclaim a bit of my own DNA and bury it out in the yard.

Submitted: May 21, 2013

© Copyright 2020 Caroline Michaud. All rights reserved.

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This poem was both interesting and original. Nice work.

Wed, May 22nd, 2013 9:23pm

Other Content by Caroline Michaud