The Body Electric

I have been writing about the human body for months now.  Of our many types of tissue cells, of the brain’s tangled synapses, the length of our bones, the romance of muscles and hormones, the wet engine of the heart and the long path of the circulatory system, of how the lungs hold air.

Still to come are the particulars of digesting and excreting a burrito, of fighting of disease. Of how our sex parts mess with our heads, create new life.

There is so much mystery, so much poetry in a body, in its evolution. I don’t exactly get to sing that song at the moment, this being a more scientific and educational endeavor…

(Which, yes, you can watch here at Crash Course. For free.)

But I do think of it. As I walk in the woods, or stretch on a blanket , or cut onions, or hold my child’s small fleshy hand, or lay in bed, trying to fall asleep. I think about what is going on inside of me. What my cells are doing. My blood. How my hair grows. How my brain holds, creates, and forgets memories. Why my eyes are bleary, and why what feels like a small, mean troll has taken up residence in my lower back.

File:Anatomical Male Figure Showing Heart, Lungs, and Main Arteries.jpg

I think of the poetry of the body.

I think about how we all start as a tiny cluster of cells, that multiply, differentiate, grow.

I think about how nearly 400 million years ago a humble little lobe-finned fish moved its gills inside, turned them into lungs, and crawled out of that primordial water onto land, and how all of us lung-havers, from sparrow to rhinoceros, share that common ancestor.

I think of Whitman’s Body Electric, of the thin red jellies within you or within me, the bones and marrow in the bones… 

I picture William Carlos Williams’ private dance.

And I remember hearing Yusef Komunyakaa read one rainy night in the Berkshires. Of me staring at tigers in the carpet as he professed his love of the body, clear down to the soft quick motor of each breath, and the liver’s ten kinds of desire…

Now you can think of it too.



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