Translating the Body, by Jillian Weise

Translating the Body

by Jillian Weise

All Nations Press 2006

ISBN 0-9725110-6-7

Cover art by Ginna Raymer

All Nations Press

PO Box 601

White Marsh, VA 23183

www.allnationspress.com

Jillian Weise has conquered the personal challenge. Now she is out to make the rest of us see and feel what she has learned.

She gets our attention with provocative titles and subject matter, like “The Amputees Guide to Sex.” Then she forces us deeper into our own experience. In the poem of that name, once past the curiosity, her lines could hold true for anyone having sex for the first time with a new partner. Weise gets at the uncertainty and ambiguity, crossing boundaries by holding disability up as a metaphor for feelings we all have when trying to relate intimately to others—thus “translating” the body. This poem in sections moves inexorably, surely from particular to universal. The removal of a prosthesis can be a covering metaphor for getting past falsities, manners, illusions.

* * * *

Wait for shadows to stand still, then quick, under the covers . . .

. . .  track their hands like game pieces on a board . . . Your goal is to achieve a false harmony with their body.

. . .Think for two people. Know where your limbs are at all times . . . .

Weiss has a profound connection to language.  In another poem, she probes like a surgeon feeling for tendons:

like the beautiful word: abscission

to cut off, in botany, to shed leaves

I think of the wives /of the twenty thousand masons/who raised the Taj Mahal. And how/when it was finished, the emperor/

Ordered a mass amputation of thumbs…

Did they ask, Can you feel me here and here? How about now?

* * * *

We are all disabled by falsehoods, pretensions, fear of connection, and more. Weise knows this and shows us how and why on every page. This is everything we want poetry to be: brave, uncluttered, deep as the pools of human longing. Weiss has a triumph here, a book both readers and writers can appreciate and return to for inspiration.

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