Cavity search • 24 December 2010


Piriformis piriformis puriformis pureiformis pure forms.

Sometimes now, when I’m walking cross-town on Huron River Drive, rolled up in layers of organic material like a human soft taco (lean meat, with layers of worm-spun, sheep-shorn and goose-plucked), I’ll shut down the mental chatter and dive in to my physical body. This is my Innerspace game, becoming a tiny pinlight of consciousness that explores my own marrow, meat, gristle and squish. And the open spaces. Especially those.

Why is it so easy to fall in to a habit of collapsing the spaces in the body? Holding the air out of the lungs. Sucking the belly in. Closing the space in the chest. Sucking in the forehead and hardening the jaw against the trench between the hemispheres in the brain. (I hear that people who do a lot of cranio-sacral therapy, or who do Qi-gong skull-breathing exercises, tend to add a hat size or two as the skull bones learn to relax.)

Is it scary to contain empty space? 

Body cavities are as much poetry as they are garbage. I love the productive emptiness of the intestines, a little network of miniature black holes where sandworms sometimes travel. Also, the breastbone, split open so easily for open-heart because it’s just a tender marrow factory working 24 hours a day, tha-thrum tha-thrum, and so on. The crevice between the hemispheres is not so mysterious when you’re hovering on the west rim, watching the milky stalagtite of the pituitary drip liquid down to the soft palate and, godwilling, beyond.

What makes the Innerspace game hyper-real, and hypnotic like horror and sex, is the tissue soaked in blood. Gristle-knobs, the click-squish of knees and ankles from the inside, the way the shoulderblade parts from the body like a chickenwing.

I’ve been asking people to get interested in the (initially) insensate concrete blocks of the hips and upper back. This is so intimate, siding the meat past sticky gristle that collects in the piriformis and the trapezius, threading new nadis in to the spaces between. Working the femur against the cartilage of its socket. This is bony, meaty action: I see ancestors wielding those femurs the way Samson turned a donkey-jaw into a scythe.

Sometimes, it is a lot: to ask intellectual people, people of the screen, to go in to the gross body. To ask them to redirect their valuable awareness to something that’s been the limiting “problem” since at least Decartes. University people do wish to jar up our brains like in Far Side cartoons, getting rid of the limitations and distractions of the body. It’s understandable.

But… the gross body is the beginning and the end of science. It’s the seedbed of poems and religions. Meat, really, is half of mysticism; the other half’s the moon.