S – Week 6: Notes from a Surgeon

Dedicated to anyone whose feminism gets in the way of their ability to leave the house.

Notes from a Surgeon 

My education has trained me to be if not distrustful, then at least neglectful of beauty. When the bulk of credits earned are split between ‘critical theory’ and ‘social psychology of disgust’, you know that your dictionary of aesthetics has a few revisions. My peers titter away in literature departments, clutching ugly reprints of Women in Love, hunting for any viscous droplet of beauty clinging to skeuomorphic serifs. They’re waiting for that linguistic chocolate on their pillow—quotable redemption. For them, beauty is meaning. For them, beauty means feeling.

Meanwhile, I’ve taken glances at beauty and noticed some alarming features. From my vantage point, beauty serves to condition desire and discipline how we experience bliss. There’s something pernicious about beauty, especially because it’s so hard to critique. Beauty is sacred. Beauty is qualitative. Claims of beauty place ideas, places, and objects outside the realm of analysis—to deconstruct them would be blasphemous and defiling. To deconstruct beauty would break meaning-making structures and leave us with all the wrong feelings.

I’ve learned that you do not cut open an angel’s torso in order to study her anatomy. I never wanted to get blood on anyone’s parade, and so I kept quiet: it’s simply easier to ignore beauty than to ruin someone’s fun. I’ve tuned it out, made it the non-subject of my non-studies. But now I’m here, and I need to convince this angel—the one I’ve been threatening to cut up for so long—I need to convince her to fly.

You do not cut open an angel’s torso in order to study her anatomy.
You know why we don’t do these things?
We don’t do these things because when you cut open an angel, then she no longer is one. Because once you see how things work, they suddenly don’t.

I’ve been holding the scalpel. I’ve been cutting open your angels.
I’ve seen their insidious insides:
Full of cogs and grease, organs of plasticine and steel.
When I say mechanisms, I mean it: their blood is oil,
Petrol pumped from war-torn nations, alchemically rearranged
To make your fake silk and lemongrass scented candles.

God, your angels are filthy on the inside.

But: I do this for a reason.
I splice and separate because I don’t think ugliness should find sanctuary in how things work.
Because I’d rather have a broken angel than an angel whose belly aches
from eating the discontents of many.

Months go by.
I accumulate more dead angels.
I shoot them out of the air and take the fraudulent psalms from their mouths.
I pile their corpses in my apartment,
Floor-bound in leaden stacks, draped over armchairs,
Or most perversely,
Scattered among my bed sheets, with a few wedged between mattress and plaster.
And although I haven’t opened all of them,
I can tell you how many cuts are needed to make an angel monstrous:
With a good appendix, it can take under 65 pages.

Sure, sometimes I wish I knew how to sew:
Before I sutured her wounds,
I would wipe off her cogs, degrease her joints, and give her different organs.
I would say, I’m sorry I tinker. You can’t help that you work.
But I don’t know how to sew and I don’t know what to do with these angels.
All they do is remind me of how much easier it is to expose ugliness than to create beauty.

I direct the reader to my torso,
Acknowledging that–
Although I claim to be nobody’s angel–
My insides go unseen,
My flesh unscarred.
And my ankles fettered to this ground.

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