Prompt: Start with the Body
When we read about the body, we lean in toward the page. We all live in a body. We all do and often we don’t want to talk about it.
Start with a part of the body—maybe your feet, maybe your grandfather’s hands. Maybe your daughter’s collar bone. Maybe a birthmark you have on your left thigh. Can we go beyond the idea of flattering or unflattering? Attention brings honor to whatever it describes. It’s so easy to get caught in worrying over what we think is good and bad, especially when it comes to our physicality. And yet, I find that on the page, these lines blur. That even if someone is describing a person who is in a rough way, is injured, or infirm, the attentiveness to the detail of their being evokes a sense of shared humanity and compassion in me as a reader. Even love. Look at these lines from “Face Poem” by Dorianne Laux:
Your craggy mountain goat face.
Your mole-ridden, whiskered, stumpy fish of a face. Face
I turn to, face I trust, face I trace with grateful fingertips,
jaw like a hinge, washboard forehead, the deep scar a gnarl
along the scritch of your chin.
See how we love this beloved along with the speaker of the poem?
Set a timer if you like. The Muse loves constraints. Really! A limited window allows things to surface on the page that we might censor, if we had the time. Also, we might just start roaming around and seeing what’s in the refrigerator, or if the bathroom floors need to be cleaned, depending on the day.
I often recommend 10-15 minutes for a quick start. Or, if you feel you have the bandwidth 30 minutes or more.
For more inspiration, here is the opening of Tim Seibles’ “Ode to my Hands.”
Five-legged pocket spiders, knuckled
starfish, grabbers of forks, why
do I forget that you love me:
your willingness to button my shirts,
tie my shoes—even scratch my head!
which throbs like a traffic jam, each thought
leaning on its horn….
Now write! Make your self a cup a tea, pour a glass of water. Settle in. Phone ringer off. This is time you are giving back to yourself. Small as it is, it matters.
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