Day Surgery or Toward A Big Unsubtle Ars Poetica

October 16, 2016

Contributor’s Marginalia: Susannah Nevison on “My Big Unsubtle Feelings” by Rebecca Hazelton

My big unsubtle feeling is that we’re stuck in our bodies, that we drag them with us everywhere we go, and that this living, this very unsubtle living, is a lot of work. My big unsubtle feeling is that I once thought my body’s birth defects weren’t part of me, thought if I cut out the bad parts I’d rise like a ghost, or at least something lighter or cleaner or purer. Everyone knows that’s impossible but I keep trying to imagine it’s possible. I believe the imagining is enough.

I believe the imagining begins when I wake in the bathtub / surrounded by ice, when I say to myself, in a very loud, unsubtle voice, I can’t bear to imagine / you. Imagine: I must stitch myself together or take myself apart. And if my body has its own ideas (see: mortality) what can I do but try to beat it to the punch, excise what I must and construct what suits me? So enters the surgeon. So enters language, that sharpest scalpel. Someone calls for more ice.

Like a ghost, something lighter. I’ve got to move while I’m still numb. What happens when I can’t tell the difference between the body and the instruments that attend? Very funny / you might say. I might say it’s the better to put my hands around. I might say my hands are left holding my hands, my own devices. I might call this scrubbing in.

That which might burst that which needs balance must be exhumed and examined, held under the lamp, the microscope. Twist the knife, cut the bad parts out. I want to say I’m sorry. I’ll bear to imagine I’m pulling out my own stitches, that the seams will no longer hold what I desperately refuse to see. Can you imagine you, stretched across the white sheet?

The lightness arrives when the body starts speaking, when the numbness wears off. My open body starts thrashing and asking for a big, unsubtle pair of shoes and a quick trip to the beach. It wants to be useful, but first it wants to show me what it’s made of. We dance until we split our sides. Until our legs fall off.

I have to imagine I can keep myself apart, that I can hold my body in my hands and make something beautiful. That I can put pressure on the parts that threaten to walk off, that threaten to tear open, until they show me how I can use them. I worried your calves / had ideas of leaving // so they are under the bed. I never thought I’d say I love my legs. I never thought I’d find them so appealing until I finally put them on the table and take a good, hard look. I believe the imagining is enough. I stretch my legs across a white sheet. They show me how I can use them.

Susannah Nevison is the author of Teratology (Persea Books, 2015). Her work has appeared in Ninth Letter, Beloit Poetry Journal, The Rumpus, and elsewhere. She teaches and studies at the University of Utah.

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