A beautiful woman blows her nose on the 4 train heading uptown and I am immediately attracted to the way she uses one hand to cover her nostrils with a thin tissue and the other to clutch a plastic container of soup. Her hair is perfectly blond and straight. Make-up floats over her skin like love poems. A thin line of black over eyes and something maybe called shimmer against her lids. Her lips are the shade of red my cheeks get during a winter walk.
I have been blowing my nose all across Brooklyn and Manhattan. At the end of each day, I refresh my handkerchief for another. Today’s is dark blue and yesterday’s was green. I remove my gloves and use two hands. There is nothing graceful or erotic about the way I extract the sick from my body. My skin is dry and my hair refuses to respond to coconut oil or conditioner. I wear no make-up or intentional threads to catch anyone’s eyes. This season stuffs me in. I am bound and layered. A poet sitting across from me might called me disheveled.
Many of us have become bears this season, hibernating until the sun reaches a more attractive temperature. It can be difficult to step outside when the wind knocks against our bones like an aggressive intruder. The ice continues to melt and reform and grow dirtier and dirtier with each passing car. I am trying to find beauty in all this cold and sick.
I think back on all the times during my least irresistible moments of weakened health. The ones who arrived to cook me medicinal meals: delicious Italian remedies or wonton soup from the nearby Chinese restaurant. The ones who rubbed oils on my chest to bring forth breath, read me poems until I found sleep.
My body coated in shivers and red. My mind, unable to capture coherency. The songs of my body, a choral of coughs and sneezes.
This woman on the 4 train is not hiding her sick. She sneezes into unfolded tissue and I watch her body seizure for a moment as it lets go of another round of germs. Sometimes it is comforting to be reminded that we are not the only ones feeling this way.
My sick is not beautiful and it is lonely these days. I make my own chicken soup. I research other antidotes. I notice the paleness coat my body and long for Vitamin D arriving from the sky, warming my skin.
All evening, The Body grew confused. Throat swelled into a shape difficult for swallowing. Imagine augmenting mouth to take in the height of the moon; its diameter is daunting. Prepare for sores to grow where lips tear. Tongue will grow spotted like endangered hunter, torn up from predator cells.
Voice got lost somewhere inside the wind. This hurricane is bony and battered. Its turned on by shrieks and the murmur of shredded roots. This is happening too quickly.
Nose remembers fuel forced inside it on those days all those years and when music came wrapped up in plastic, plates became square with liner notes. Oh there was red and blood burrowed inside tissues inside pockets and eyes lost their meaning and oh sleep hid in dresser drawers. Now nose is crowded and where is the exit sign and when cartilage crumbles what is left.
A human boils water flavored by vegetables, stolen from soil and alphabetized on grocery shelves. Human shaped as wo(man breathing out bits of masculine and indulging in the aroma of all of it feeds The Body slowly using chest as cutting board to lean against. Human inhales sick body cold body bloodstream of coughsniffcoughblowsniffsniffdrip. Behind every swallow is an orgasm or sensation of humbled skin shaking like an aged car part. Chills whisper all over Body and its temperature is winter’d summer or autumn’d spring what does it matter it is moody.
Sip up the powders and pills and medicinal suppers meant to induce drowsiness and memory loss. This Body is barely breathing but when it does oh it kind of sounds like tire wheels or asthmatic paper.
No words no words no words no words but it is cold here but it is lonely in this Body covered in spasms and fatty disease. What is the complaint. What is there to inhale that has not been experimented on. What is the necessity to take in earth when all that is left is contagion.
How aware are we of what happens below our mouths? Below our chins? Beyond neck….past collarbones….the sloped hill of our bodies….how closely are we paying attention to the quiet language of our skin…are you in need of an appointment…when was the last time you had a pap smear, colonoscopy, have you recently had a stroke you were unaware of…is your eyesight blurry…how many taste buds can you decipher…are there strange sores around your mouth…how scratchy is your throat or belly…are you eating enough…check your scalp…check the calluses on your feet…are your heels cracked…smell your wrists/ do you detect an infection…how frightened are your roots…do your ankles swell…check your std/ has it flared again…how heavy are your bones in the morning…are your knees cracking…have your shoulders curled inward…what color is your urine…how often do you pee…what color was your skin last month and how does it compare to today…are you tracking your menstruation…how many pairs of underwear did you ruin from your blood…how often do you bleed…is it thin…what is your diet…how often do you walk away…how many sexual partners have you consumed/ are there stains…what is beneath your fingernails…what are your habits…how often do you consume coffee cocaine prescription pills alcohol…are you addicted to consumption…how many stitches have you received…have you removed all your cavities…what do you mean you don’t have health insurance…is your liver shaking…what swells inside you…have you filled out the paperwork…how crooked is your spine…what is your income do you have income…are your knuckles exposed…state your family history of diseases…what are you previous diagnoses…are you taking any medication…do you have frequent nose bleeds…what is the minimum you can pay out of pocket…how often are you out of breath…list three emergency contacts…have you signed a waiver…does anyone know you are here…who will drive you home…how often do you feel this way…who is your primary care doctor…sit still…stop crying…is there someone you can call…you are going to need to fill out some more paperwork…what is your mother’s maiden name…why are you crying…do you understand what this means…do I need to call in an interpreter…how long have you been feeling this way…