nothing more than a creature of mechanics

When a child first catches adults out – when it first walks into his grave little head that adults do not have divine intelligence, that their judgments are not always wise, their thinking true, their sentences just – his world falls into panic desolation. The gods are fallen and all safety gone. And there is one sure thing about the fall of gods: they do not fall a little; they crash and shatter or sink deeply into green muck. It is a tedious job to build them up again; they never quite shine. And the child’s world is never quite whole again. It is an aching kind of growing.

John Steinbeck, East of Eden


Stephen A. Palermo

My grandfather would hold up
in our basement bathroom
emptying his colostomy bag,
cleaning the stoma with alcohol and cotton,
the sterile smell of intake and waste
of being alive with malfunctioning parts—
this ritual of maintenance
and redirected necessity
living proof that
even open wounds serve a function.

And then I got it: the body
is nothing more
than a creature
of mechanics.

In time, I too would be given
to the minutes and hours of
this atavistic need for upkeep,
inspecting the damaged eye
in a bathroom mirror,
the thin white line of scarring
splitting the cornea into
disparate planes,
the discharge of what
the body produces
and immediately turns
its back on.

At that age, I took
my grandfather’s ritual
to be some sort of key to the secret
lives of grownups,
a world where we are granted
the privilege of knowledge,
where we all eventually end up
alone, repairing
our bodies in private, filled
with the certainty
that we’ll never again
be whole.


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