Sunday, May 07, 2017


Swallowing a goldfish for one's "brothers".

The gastrointestinal tract is a way for things that are outside our bodies to come inside us without breaking the skin barrier that protects us.  Our one-celled ancestors and other microbes can simply enwrap food, but we aren’t free to change shape nor can we really absorb the food so cells can use it without a little bit of processing, reducing it to the right kind of molecules and sending it around in blood.

Women have another way of taking things in, the sexual opening that goes up a tube to a different kind of muscular pouch, which has a limited entrance (actually two fallopian tubes) from the abdominal cavity where for a short interval the ova, human eggs, are free-floating.until the ends of the fallopian tubes entice them in and shift them down to the uterus.

It’s possible to confuse the sexual with the gastronomic, displacing the metaphor of intercourse to the act of eating in various ways, using the mechanics of eating — nibbling, biting, tongue actions — to sex.

Sometime trauma or perversity can go farther.  In the beginning of war, 1939, which was during my childhood and documented by LIFE magazine, there was a craze for imitating birth (or rebirth) by swallowing goldfish and then regurgitating them quickly.  (The truly considerate drank a lot of water first.)  Some even swallowed mice and threw them back up again.  (Talk about trauma — certainly for the mouse!)

There have always been flame-eaters and sword swallowers, which are extreme and dangerous acts that take special techniques and precautions to perform entry into the top of the gastrointestinal tract.   Anorexia and bulimia might be related.  The practise of douching to get rid of seminal emissions is parallel.  In certain circles enemas are recommended, in the belief that the lower contents of the GI tract are somehow dirty or even poisonous, but that substances introduced through a nozzle — fluids like coffee, hard liquor, or supposedly medicinal concoctions are not.  

These days it’s a favored medical practise to put little cameras on the ends of flexible tubes both down throats to stomachs and up rectums as far as the appendix — in the belief that actually seeing and recording on video will offer information for healing.   Also, slender catheters go in a larger blood vessel that can reach the heart or the brain while being watched on a screen.  

In a miniature version of invasion, a needle syringe can draw blood out or put substances into the body. In that case it is not the doctor who acquires information, but the subject who through mind-distortion sees new worlds that may or may not be remembered.  It may be the silencing of memory that is desired.

Lack of knowledge in the first place can be deadly.  Consider the introduction of a human hand into the vagina or intestines, called "fisting," on the edge between the erotic and the deadly.  Not only can fisting cause injury, but also doctors will not understand how to interpret, treat, or explain damage from it.   

There once was a day when putting beans up your nose or pencils in your ears — and that CAN be quite erotic — was warned against and punished if children were detected doing it.  But now it is adults who hide things up their butts or swallow condoms full of illicit drugs to be “mules” across the borders.  Also occasionally deadly.  Taking risks.  Crossing borders.

Conventional sexual union is one way to have someone inside you, to be inside someone else.  These days people will say frankly, “I wasn’t ready to have anyone inside me,” or “I yearned to be in her” — or either gender if displacing to the anus.  There is a body of theory about people who are thrusting up the vagina in a futile effort to return to the womb, but no one suggests that anal or oral intercourse is an attempt to return to the stomach.

All of this is preamble to what I really want to talk about:  writing.  (Well, and reading, of course.)  How does one use words to get inside someone, how does one allow another person’s sensibility and being to get inside?  Some will swallow the little fluttering poem and regurgitate it.  Some will enter the wrong hole for their purposes.  Others will savor and digest.  Even achieve a virtual birth, though there is always the chance of a turd.

The skillful writer swallows the world and excretes what is left over after building the vital nourishment of life into their own tissues.  Not just words but also images and songs — quite literally with the help of videotape, apps, and the multitude of internet screens, large and small.  It’s not driven by any formula from a how-to-write website but rather by one’s passionate soul trying to get into the cosmos through secret routes, even black holes.  The holes of the ears, the pupils of the eyes, and — in some circumstances — the double access of the nostrils since smell is a powerful access to memory, are all access to the materials of world-weaving that can be transmitted to others.

Loneliness, lack of meaning, failure to thrive, inability to connect, are all shortfalls, lack of access to these sensory and patterning ways of being human that make us crave money and sugar and titillation.  These lacks make rape into a weapon, drive perversity into sanity-breaking forced acts, let alone damage to tissues and erasure of futures.

The mind IS the body, the body IS the mind, but the mind can send reports through imagery that take us inside each other.  What is in the mind of a young male soldier standing in a line of ten men intending to rape someone’s mother on the ground before them.  What is "Number Five" in the line thinking?  Could we put it in a poem, a short paragraph, a long story?  

Is he thinking that his mother beat him and refused to feed him so all mothers deserve this treatment?  Is he thinking that he loved his mother, but this is not a human being, only an animal to be used without any accountability.  Or is he trying not to throw up, regurgitating this moment in his life, since he has already shit his pants out of fear and revulsion?  And is he wondering how he can have an erection at a moment like this, since he doesn’t understand that testosterone and adrenaline can do violent tarantella in the blood that will engorge tissue with the internal scarlet fire that bulges between his legs?  Will he forget this, “redact” this from his memory?  Or will his mind play it over and over?

Sex, eating, killing.  Once the soft walls of the intestines are split in this way, what can heal them?  A life of service?  Caring for others?  Being loved without being either invaded or trapped?  Sometimes the swallowed mouse will not survive nor revive.  The world shrugs.  Unless they are made to know.

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