For twenty years, I've been teaching writing at the International Women's Writing Guild Summer Conference. This summer was unlike any other. Writers were uneasy, on edge, agitated by the weirdness of the whole campaign. I wanted to give them a chance to vent some of those feelings, so we wrote a collective poem. The title was "Autopsy of a Nation."
We looked at actual autopsy reports. We found nouns and verbs used by professionals in the field. We imagined looking at our own country from the perspective of an outsider examining the remains. Then we opened our hearts and gave voice to our feelings. Everyone in the class contributed a line.
I came across it today and decided to share.
Autopsy of a Nation (a group poem)
Final cause of death:
swelling and edema of the extremities, indicating a failure to stand up for what they knew to be right
organs inflamed, due to excessive intake of prescription drugs, alcohol, social media
embolism indicating sedentary lifestyle and a unwillingness to support each other
metastasizing cancer from processed foods, pollutants and GMOs
hyperextended muscles and tendons reveal overreaching for success, fame, wealth
dehydration from failure to dip their cups in the sacred well
malnourished for lack of intimate connection
calcification of arteries show evidence of antibiotics from diseased beef and poultry intake
varied contusions and bruises suggest lack of defense against bullies who bludgeon
ruptured eardrums from the repetitive sound of bullets, bombs and perpetual bullshit
lacerations on wrist from the construction and destruction of barbed
cataracts on the eyes from refusing to see the other as self
neck vertebra disintegrated from excessive leaning to the right
hair exudes odor of petroleum, matted with condoms, plastic and dead fish
stomach cavity bloated with bile from undigested grief
irregular neck curvature
uncalloused hands and feet
flaccid muscle tone
excessive body fat
A potentially salvageable opportunity was missed.
The heart --intact-- might have gone on beating
if all other systems had been properly maintained.
July 20, 2016
IWWG Writing Conference
Jan Phillips' class