On Memoir and Specimen Jars

Apparently, we’re all – or at least most of us – still opening bananas from the difficult end. Despite the fact that we’ve been shown how to do it otherwise. But we’re creatures of habit. Literally. Social organisms that move through the world according to patterns of behavior we’ve incorporated into the very physical patterns of our cells.

The hand pulls back before the brain registers heat.

When my kids were small I took them to the science museum in London. There were holes in one of the walls and visitors were supposed to put their hand in the darkness to touch something. And to guess what it was.

I couldn’t bring myself to do it. And knew I was supposed to teach my kids to do it: Be curious. Be brave. Be trusting.

Ready, get set, said my brain. But my body said no. What does it really mean to be brave? Is it a matter of handing over the reins to the intellect and obeying a painful kick to the rib?

The body’s wisdom is illogical.
This is is a perfect fact.

This fall I tried virtual reality for the first time. We were supposed to walk out onto a beam extending from a high rise hundreds of meters over a busy street. I bent from the waist and peered out of the window. Put my foot on the narrow beam.

No.

I don’t want to teach my brain to override my body. I am inefficient. I will continue to open bananas from the wrong end. Because I am perfectly human. And I come from perfectly human specimens. Who do we think we are?

I’m from holidays
of blond, wood-veneered bureaus
weekend nightgowns and
tuck-ins, hospital corners
in the guest room that was my room

I’m from decorative
cinder block and roach clips
pools that have been drained
for years a parade of uncles
shaking the etch-a-sketch clear

with hands whose ridges
catch motor oil and resin
and hold the world tight
like desert heat in your lungs
when you run and keep running




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  1. There is no frackin way I would put my hand in those holes!!!!
    Just thinking about it has my hackles up and I want to BOLT.
    Yeesh.

    ~p

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