Living in the Body by Joyce Sutphen

As the western world turns a judgemental eye on the ‘beach bodies’ of the world, I’m reminded of this wonderful poem by Joyce Sutphen. Sadly I am not sunning myself on a beach here or abroad but I have been conscious of how much strain I’ve been putting my body under this year. I am conscious, mostly, because my body has been sending me gentle reminders that I am not superhuman – it need sleep and fruit and much more movement than it currently experiences on a weekly basis.

Generally I’m quite good at trusting what my body needs, physical exertion aside. I know what to eat, and in what order, when my body is experiencing an unexpected hangover for example. I can recognise the very earliest signs of scurvy. I never need to crack my knuckles but I can picture the exact bones within my back that need to be crunched back into shape after a long week sitting at a desk. I do try to look after my body, but I know I could do better. And I should. It deserves better, it’s always been a dear and loyal friend to me.

Living in the Body

Body is something you need in order to stay
on this planet and you only get one.
And no matter which one you get, it will not
be satisfactory. It will not be beautiful
enough, it will not be fast enough, it will
not keep on for days at a time, but will
pull you down into a sleepy swamp and
demand apples and coffee and chocolate cake.
Body is a thing you have to carry
from one day into the next. Always the
same eyebrows over the same eyes in the same
skin when you look in the mirror, and the
same creaky knee when you get up from the
floor and the same wrist under the watchband.
The changes you can make are small and
costly—better to leave it as it is.
Body is a thing that you have to leave
eventually. You know that because you have
seen others do it, others who were once like you,
living inside their pile of bones and
flesh, smiling at you, loving you,
leaning in the doorway, talking to you
for hours and then one day they
are gone. No forwarding address.
Joyce Sutphen

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