Materialism, Exhibit 4 : Hospital (1992)

On my side, a painful prick, then the washing of morphine because the body is only
first ((the body is all)). First, physical sensation (that skin that lets in and lets in). Next,
emotional and then spiritual, rolling into figures upon figures. A vague awareness that
someone has brought lilies, bringing them to my nose. Of people laughing, of orange lily
pollen on my nose and cheeks. Hard to tell some things apart: the morphine—which seemed
to bring with it an ability to expand into realms not before fathomed—and the sensation of
my young body healing. I was sixteen, cut open and sewn back. Knifed-through muscle
reconnecting in real time. There had been a slicing away of tumor, of ovary. Was it the
morphine or the sweet flow of healthy blood rushing to fill a void? Of tissue, rebuilding?
What becomes of a living being/her/(corporeal substance)? Does the addition of morphine
to her heap of particles create an illusion of/ give her access to (immateriality)? What is she
without material substance? I believe the bruised abdomen, the pollen-smothered face, the
toenails that need to be cut. The matter of her body, having become ‘ideal,’ a phenomenon
of purely immaterial minds, an unreal appearance. Does it smell of lilies? Does it smell of
soot? Scent, here, a metaphor for the immaterial? And olfaction, in fact, explained in purely
material terms? Her body was fanning into another layer of attention—what I recognized as
spiritual was merely the skin letting in and letting in more// I was aware of more than I
usually was // I let go of more than I usually do


Jessica Reed’s forthcoming chapbook, World, Composed (Finishing Line Press), is a dialogue with the ancient poet Lucretius about atoms. Her work has appeared in Crazyhorse; Conjunctions; North American Review; Bellingham Review; New American Writing; Colorado Review; Waxwing; 111O; Tinderbox Poetry Journal; Spiral OrbThe Fourth River; and elsewhere. She has an MFA in poetry and a BS in physics, and she teaches a university seminar on physics and the arts. She lives in Indiana with her husband and chickens.