Autopsy of a Nation

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
wire fences

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

Unremarkable observations:

overdeveloped thumbs
irregular neck curvature
uncalloused hands and feet
flaccid muscle tone
excessive body fat

Final note:

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