Stay Unconscious Body Actions

Write a poem based off another poem.

Another Thing I’d Rather Not Know About Myself
Elly Bookman
from The Atlantic Poetry Review, Vol. 39 No. 5, September/October 2010


Is what a good soldier I’d make. A man
and woman come in to the coffee shop
and talk about the dinner party menu
like it’s the divorce settlement. I watch
them sit down, each ready to write
and argue, and he suggests jambalaya
and she says she’s okay with that
to which he says you don’t sound okay
with that and to answer she only asks
how it’s spelled so she can type the decision
into her laptop, finally. And I don’t
mean to say I’d be a good killer,
just good like she is at taking
small deaths in. He’s shot. Alright,
it’s happened, I would think, because
that’s what I’ve thought at every
bad turn in life: tire blown, it’s
happened, money gone, it’s happened,
pipes broken so the sewage has been
piling under the house for a month,
it’s happened and we’ll have to get
a pump in there to siphon it out.
Like the woman pecking now
without grudge at the keys that make
the word jambalaya, I’m quick to forgive
and get on. And I can see me there
on the battlefield, where nowadays
robots, I’m told, rank and move
with the regiment and it’s not so much a field
with two sides charging as a zone in which
every bit of live body heat is fair game,
where we’re all programmed for peace
until a voice echoes in our helmet that
we should fire at will. And fire we will,
all of us, and I think I’d be good
at staying willing, at letting each little
hit happen because there, it’s happened
and isn’t it little? Doesn’t the grand
amount of flame-tinted shadows
on the infrared scanner make it so? Yes
I’d be such a good soldier. For
when the fire came back at us, too
and you fell next to me I would
forgive the firer and get on with firing
at him. I’d forget about you
and engage. I’d be okay with that.


***

Revision:

So Goes Nature

by Marlena Chertock

If my legs were to stop working tomorrow,
I’d rather have an old-fashioned wheelchair
one that I’d have to push the wheels with my hands,
my arm muscles, so I’d still be working.

If my eyes were to stop detecting the edges
of my sister’s face, the deep blue of the sky before sunrise,
the art that fills the museums, I’d start going to exhibits,
put the headphones on my ears and listen
as someone tried to describe art through words to me.

If I were to lose my touch and become numb,
I wouldn’t feel the prickly bush piercing my knee
if I fell off my bike, I wouldn’t discern the blood
billowing up underneath my skin if a robber on the street
ever decided to do more than rob me. I’d rather not have scientists
try to implant stem cells into me. I would sit there, motionless, captive to the not-feeling.

If my DNA was going to unravel
so I hunched up shorter than I already stand,
I’d hope the doctors foresaw a disease like that
and were already working on a cure.
But if not, so goes nature.

And if my breath were to cease rushing
as fast as the trains that puff away from here,
I’d rather not have them all waste money on me,
trying to hook up cords and machines,
simulated breath pumped into me.

***

Stay Unconscious Body Actions

by Marlena Chertock

9-4-10

If my body was about to fail me
that’s another thing I’d rather not know
about myself.

If my legs were to stop working tomorrow,
I’d rather not know
until it happened.
I’d rather deal with things as they come,
a sort of on-the-spot resolution,
rather than dreaming, wondering
what could go wrong.

If my eyes were to stop detecting
the edges of my sister’s face,
the deep blue of the sky before sunrise,
the art that fills the museums,
I would rather not know
what I was missing out on.
So don’t tell me
what’s there,
please.

If I were to lose my touch
and become numb,
I would rather not know.
Though I wouldn’t feel
the prickly bush piercing my knee
if I fell off my bike,
though I wouldn’t notice your tears
dripping down my back
as we embraced
after being away for so long,
though I wouldn’t discern the blood
billowing up underneath
my skin
if a robber on the street ever decided
to do more than rob me;
I would sit there, motionless,
captive to the not-feeling.

These unconscious actions
my body performs
should stay that way — mysterious
and unexplained.
The caterpillar doesn’t know why he
wraps himself up in his own thread,
his own entrapment.
The bee doesn’t know that if he stings me
he’ll die,
and for what? — one sting, one prick, one small fraction of pain.
No, nature doesn’t know,
so I’d rather go on
without this knowledge
to hold me back.

And if my breath were to cease rushing
as fast as the trains that puff away from here,
I’d rather not know
at all.

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