Instructions for a Body by Marty McConnell
I am surprised that Marty McConnell’s “Instructions for a Body” hasn’t made it onto our tumblr before now! It was one of my first body anthem poems: pieces that made me feel more at home with myself. I’m happy to be the one to share it here.
The picture painted in this poem is of the magnificent body, the one that is a gift in every shape it arrives in or comes to. An absent gallbladder deserves the same reverence as fingertips. Muscles and aches are praised together. Although the title labels the poem “instructions,” there is nothing prescriptive here, except a directive to take joy and embrace your own body and its capacities. Marty instructs gratitude and celebration. She pays careful attention to the details of the body and its miracles, then leaves the living up to the listener. I think we can take it from here.
“Praise the miracle body:
The odd and undeniable mechanics of hand,
Perfect stretch of tendon.
Praise the veins that river these wrists.
Praise the prolapsed valve in a heart.
Praise the scars marking a gallbladder absent.
Praise the rasp and rattle of functioning lungs.
Praise the pre-arthritic ache of elbows and ankles.
Praise the life line sectioning a palm.
Praise the photographic pads of fingertips.
Praise the vulnerable dip at the base of a throat.
Praise the muscles surfacing on an abdomen.
Praise these arms that carry babies and anthologies.
Praise the leg hairs that sprout and are shaved.
Praise the ass that refuses to shrink or be hidden.
Praise the cunt that bleeds and accepts,
Bleeds and accepts.
Praise the prominent ridge of nose.
Praise the strange convexity of rib cage.
Praise the single hair that insists on growing from a right areola.
Praise the dent where the mole was clipped from the back of a neck.
Praise these inner thighs brushing.
Praise these eyelashes that sometimes turn inward.
Praise these hips preparing to spread into a grandmother’s skirt.
Praise the beauty of the freckle on the first knuckle of a left little finger.
In a blizzard of seconds.
Love the body human while we’re here,
A gift of minutes on an evolving planet,
A country in flux.
Give thanks for bone and dirt
And the million things that will kill us someday,
Motion and the pursuit of happiness, no guarantees.
For chaos theory, ecology, common sense
That says we are web,
A planet in balance or out,
That butterfly in Tokyo setting off thunderstorms in Iowa.
Tell me you don’t matter to a universe that conspired
To give you such a tongue,
Such rhythm or rhythmless hips,
Such opposable thumbs.
Give thanks or go home a waste of spark.
Speak or let the maker take back your throat.
March or let the creator rescind your feet.
Dream or let your god destroy your good and fertile mind.
This is your warning.
This your birthright.
Do not let this universe regret you.]