“The Body Prepares” combines Nancy Baker Cahill’s acclaimed Slipstream series with a poem from Ana María Caballero’s prize-winning manuscript Mammal. This work fuses both artists’ interest in the tension between physicality and selfhood, between biological processes and their cultural implications, and between ecology and the storylines we construct to explain (and thus attempt to contain) it. Societal engines have appropriated the facts of our physical selves, often with a limiting view. But no entity can claim credit for the way our bodies work, and as such any attempt to brandish the body as a weapon is baseless. Embodied experience is murky ground, at once the root and lofty branch of consciousness, but if we are to disassemble the narratives that are used against us, we must first dare to name them — without romanticism or preciousness. Baker Cahill and Caballero’s collaborative work creates a palimpsest of poetic time and poetic space in which meaning moves with the fluidity of plasma to unwrite imposed, socio-cultural rites.
The Body Prepares
If female, the body prepares
for the possibility of child—builds walls of sustenance, cushions of clay.
Quiet as grotto,
awaits insemination, conceivable fertilization—the shuffle of nucleic matter we sort
as epithet: discreet,
thick, slight, brave. Though we absorb them as custom, as culture, the syndromes of
our organs’ labors
result not from endeavor but from fact—blood runs down the inner thigh
of a grown
girl. Once I spot red, I can claim I’ve lived enough, seen enough, to come of age:
to walk as
latter lady, little woman, ripened daughter. My girl mind, my girl soul,
lime green mangos
fallen—ovular in their form.