Anna Binkovitz, performing for Macalester College at the 2013 Rustbelt Regional Poetry Slam in Madison, WI.
FULL POEM TEXT
Bodies, The Exhibit, is part of a trend of traveling collections
of plasticized human cadavers, meant to educate viewers about anatomy.
These corpses are "unclaimed bodies" from China,
the poor and political prisoners.
The founder obtained these bodies without consent.
In one plexiglass coffin, a corpse, face molded into a smile,
holds its stomach open as if you were an invited guest.
When did we become trespassers,
every unclaimed body an abandoned house?
When were our bodies reduced to exposed beams,
ceilings stripped down to pipe and vent?
As I walk through the hallways of pickle jar organs,
I imagine myself turned into Tupperware container,
my skull filled with pennies to show how large it is,
my brain sliced into pot holders.
I wonder if they will press my childhood scars into a magnified slide,
If my vocal chords will be stretched out next to a mallet --
just strike for the note you want to hear.
I see an old man, muscles split to show you his artificial hip,
stooped over a cane. He is held up with clear strings.
In the fairy tale, the puppet Pinocchio would cry out,
"I am a real boy."
Each half-skinned body is a cracked family photo.
We are moving into the homes of ghosts,
ripping apart whatever we can't sell --
Imagine going to a pawn shop
only to find your wedding ring.
A young man is sectioned up lengthwise.
Book shelf with all the stories missing,
frame unbearably open with no door to cover it.
Science will tell you that the body after death
is an empty husk,
when really it is oak tree initials,
a secret never meant to be shared.
Death is a return.
These people are coming home from war,
only to find a stranger in their house.
The body is not a tourist destination.
This is prostitution masquerading as science.
Do whatever you want with them, 25 bucks a pop.
There is a ballerina, missing her skin
but with hair and toe shoes still shining.
mid-twirl, she hangs like a prisoner in a stress position.
She is a plastic toy
for us to play with until we get bored,
A Barbie, trapped in her box.
No one would ever want to live like that.
I don't want to die like that.
I want to know that I will still be a person
even when my eyes go down like stage lights.
Let the performance end, but let me be remembered moving.
In death, I can be every version of myself.
I can be with you in the moments that only hold just one body,
the alone moments.
I can be the before sleep, the edge of you,
the warm press without the body in your bed.
In death, I can finally be what I have always wanted:
with you, the way the Mississippi was with Twain,
committed to memory in all tides,
wild water without constricted skin of shoreline.
In death, I can be your old world lost
your new world not yet found --
I will be the ever-dancing horizon, the cliffs
you hear echo in the wind, the laughing star
to guide you through this dark nothing
between destination and departure.