Snot Epistemology


               —after Diego Rivera’s The Hands of Dr. Moore

I.

There’s so much love for the body. Two years ago my brother wrapped his son in a towel after the bath, and the boy tripped on the shower coping and landed teeth-first. Between then and now they watched the gums bruise and fade to pink before a blackness blossomed under the enamel. My brother, the dentist, pulled them from his child’s mouth by force. The boy had leapt into the chair, held the mirror, watched the procedure as pure pleased attention. The two teeth, trailing long tendrils of diseased root like dollhouse bindles of ginger, he placed under his pillow in hopes of a tooth fairy’s five bucks.

II.

Ideas, too, should get their due. Tonight, sitting in a nest of pillows, you said, I’m Big Bird! I’m Big Bird! Rock a-bye baby! Rock a-bye baby! I rock! I rock! I rock! I quack! Quack! Quack! Bawk! Bawk! Bawk! I’m Big Bird! I’m Nora! You hopped from the bed and draped your blanket over your head, tripped on its tail and cracked your beak against the tile. When you rose up, blood trailed across your cheeks, blood you smeared in tears over your eyes so your skin was jeweled like a prizefighter’s sweat. This is the human water of pain, ornamented in red by the transports of your being, your breath, which became ATP and muscle contraction and a wail you left in the air at that moment forever, a wail that echoes in its instant of What-happened and Will-it-stop-hurting. Your mom got a towel, and I wiped your face. I folded the blood from your nose into the rag, but through your sobs you asked to see inside. When I opened the rag, there in red and pink against the white, glistening like a fresh oyster, was the shape of your blood and mucus—all those things skin can truly be said to hold. Despite my expectation, this calmed you. You touched it delicately with the print of your finger. It’s a heart, Daddy, you said and cried a little longer, but more softly now, softer, and under the conversation of color and shape.

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