Celebrating Life

Percival Everett’s “Body” intervenes in the blazon form. More specifically, the poems may be understood as celebrating every aspect of life, from creation, to birth, to reproduction, and repeating. What Percival Everett is doing is taking various body parts and making poems out of them. All of these body parts are female, which makes sense because according to the poetry foundation website, blazon is defined as a catalog of “the physical attributes of a subject, usually female”. Everett uses the blazon form to tell the story of life.

            Everett begins his celebration of life in the beginning, the point of creation. Because of this, he starts his poems with the act of sex. The poems begin with the hyoid bone, the bone in the neck that is also the base of the tongue. This is what controls a kiss. Then, the sternum. This is the bone that protects the heart. The heart is where all of the love comes from, and where some people make certain decisions. Then comes the orbicularis palpebrarum, the muscle that controls the eye lid. Everett uses this to say, “Send us a wink”, as if calling somebody over in a sexual manner. Then the tongue; obviously, this is used for the intimate act of kissing. After this comes the palmar fascia. This is the muscle that controls the squeezing of a hand, making it important to grab things, shake a hand, or be gentle during any sexual activity. After this comes the obturator internus. This is one of the bones in the pelvis that control the rotating of a hip. In order to initiate any sexual intercourse, the hips must open up, and this uses the obturator internus. Next comes the fissure of Silvius. This is a fissure in the brain that separates the frontal and temporal lobes form the insular cortex. The frontal lobe is in charge of movements, and the temporal lobe controls audio, visual, and memory functions. The insular cortex regulates emotions. Everett brings up the fissure of Sylvius in a way to show emotion. He says this is the spot “where the crying starts, where the crying stops”. I saw this as the shift in the poems. This is where it goes into part two of the celebration of life.

            At this point in the poems, Everett is no longer celebrating the sexual part of life, he is in the waiting period. The next poem is the nasal fossae. Everett uses this poem to say, “I smell your sex…filling my upper and central septum”. The celebration of sex is over, and now they are lying in bed together. The next poem is titled “Sclerotic”, for the sclera. This is a part of the eye. The poem uses the sclera to describe looking at whatever woman these poems are about; looking at her with love. Then comes the labyrinth. Everett uses this poem to bring up the temporal and petrous bones, two main bones in the structure of a skull. Everett says in this, “Semicircular canals mock incompleteness. This is the first sign that the woman in the poems is pregnant. Next comes the corpora cavernosa. This is a mass of tissue that can be found in the clitoris. Everett uses this poem to say, “Fibers, fibrils, elongated cells, bands, chords, trabeculae, muscles, arteries, nerves, fibers”. It sounds like something biological is being built. Next is the larynx.\, which Everett uses to say, “it whispers, it calls, it cries, it makes those sounds”. Although Everett is still describing the same woman as the rest of the poems, she is now making theses calls and cries for the baby. The fact that there is a baby coming is confirmed by the next poem; the dura mater. This is a membrane that is both part of the skull, and a part of the brain and spinal cord too. Now, there are real signs of a baby being created. The next chapter is entitled, “The Weight of the Encephalon”. The encephalon is really just a fancy term for the brain, so now it is confirmed that the poems are talking about a baby, because it went from a developing brain stem to a full brain, or encephalon. Just for reinforced confirmation, the next poem is the fissure of Rolando. This separates the frontal lobe from the parietal lobe, the lobe that controls movement from the lobe that controls touch and basic feeling instincts. These are two parts of the brain that take little development, they are there for babies because they are a part of human survival instincts. The next poem is actually a male body part, the tunica vaginalis. Although it does sound like a female body part, this is actually a pouch of membrane that covers the testes. I believe this is where Everett reflects on how he made a baby. This brings us to the third and final part of Everett’s celebration of life.

            The last part of Everett’s celebration of life, is birth. The first poem in this third part is the labia majora. This is the outer skin over a vagina, which expands when a baby is on the way. Next is the epigastric. This is the upper area of the abdomen, and Everett describes, “…filled with sweet air, supplying all that lies in the cavity…expanding with the motion of life”. Obviously, the brain from three poems ago turned into a full baby, and this is how the body of poems ends. Everett does not celebrate life the same way other people do, from start to finish. Everett begins the celebration before birth, at conception. Then comes the process of building and growing while still not being born. Lastly, the celebration would end with a baby’s birth. Everett decides to show this celebration not through a regular story, but through a series of blazon poems listing one body part at a time.

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