Sometimes I think my body is rotting inside out. It starts in the brain. On the bad nights I think of Ginsberg and his poem. I want to know what happens after I rot because I’m already rotting. I imagine pressing my finger into the seam in my chest and prying the chunks of skin and rib apart to reveal gaping, rotting guts.
But I’m young, I’ll say as I weigh a sopping grey lung in my hand. How does Ginsberg say it again? This familiar rotting ginsberg. This familiar rotting claire. I’ll hacky-sack my spleen between my ankles and elbows, cleave out my liver, rid my chest of the heavy, failing organs. Just the spine left, blue and green mushrooming up between the cracked and stacked vertebrae.
I think I’m rotting inside out, I’ll say, dropping ropes of oozing intestines onto the doctor’s table. Where does it hurt?, the doctor will ask. It starts in my head, I’ll say. Put that away, the doc will reply, we can’t help sick heads here.
How can I fix this? I’ll ask, packing my reeking innards into the blue cooler I’ll have to carry with me. I’ll fold my chest together, holding my ribs shut with a hand pressed beneath my collar bones, like a coat without buttons.
At home I’ll take my shoes off, careful to keep one hand pinning my chest down so the skin doesn’t flap loose like refrigerator doors as I tug each pant leg off my heels. My roommate will shout from his room to ask where I’ve been and I’ll tell him I was running errands, seeing about a bit of rot. He’ll ask about my voice, which will sound hollow without my heart or lungs. Don’t worry, I’ll tell him.
I think I’m rotting inside out, I’ll say to my cat and he’ll meow because he knows this already. Strong sense of smell; I think he knew before I did.
I want to know what happens after I rot because I’m rotting already.
Tonight I count my organs out under my skin. Find my stomach with a hard press above the bellybutton; feel the grooves of my kidneys, one on each side below the waist, behind my stomach. I lay on my bed with Ginsberg spread open at the spine, page-side down, across my left thigh.
It gets hard to read when you start to rot.
You see, the problem—the real problem here—is the rot itself. It cakes and crawls across my brain and I can’t think can’t think can’t think. On nights like this I have to lay in bed and count my organs because I think I’m rotting i think im rotting i think im rotting. Give me a hand, Ginsberg, because I need to know what happens after I rot.
Phrases in italics are from Allen Ginsberg’s 1959 poem, “Mescaline.”