Endoscopy, Calliope and other muses…


In the hours after my double-header endoscopy/colonoscopy this week, folks have asked me how it went. When I would say “It was a really good experience,” there would be a pause, and searching eye-contact, as they would wait for the laugh or grimace that would confirm the sarcasm they were trying to find in my delivery. It never came…. Nor, in most cases, would come much more explanation.

In fact, here, I’m skipping the part most find so dramatic: the prep. That gets plenty of press. (The next sentence I rewrote several times trying to avoid a variety of obvious-but-unintentional puns that seemed to intrude with gross, sophomoric insistence into each attempt, but I gave up.)

Here I skip to the end, where the juice was for me.

I was given a brief recap by the doc, in person and in print, along with some pictures, which I will treasure:

Oh, look, isn’t the the sweetest appendiceal orifice!?

And what a precious, healthy and well-vasculated Duodenal Bulb?! 

Imagine! only one polyp in 25 feet dewy pink intestine!

Since I’d have loved to watch the procedure on a screen, like others I know have done, I really am very grateful for the pictures. They make it all “real” somehow, more trustworthy and also more miraculous.  My father talked about his ileocecal valve for years. But I have seen mine; I’m that much closer than he ever was to empirical certainty of what most of us only imagine, speculate on and take a text book’s word for is actually inside the formless field of sensation we “know” our body to be, beneath the derma.

Dad was fascinated with bodily function, like he was with all well-designed man-made machinery. And he was subtly in tune with the energetics of his own body. But his mind could bias his interpretations of those sensations. And his bias against the misguided medical system deprived him of the delights of visual aids, until his illness had deprived him of the capacity to enjoy them, when the medical system got hold of his own malfunctioning body (and brain).

When his wife broke her patella years earlier, and they made a rare foray to the medical world, he developed and enlarged a “negative” of the X-ray for display. She was discomfited; he was delighted. We are conditioned to value the visual sense most in this culture; and his voyeuristic photographer’s eye could not resist. Frankly, I’m with him: there is such beauty and even mystique in those glimpses into the insides of us, which, until we get a picture, is all just hearsay and myth.

So, those entero-scopic pictures made it worth the trip; they are, after all, my only memories of the trip. Because the other best thing about the trip was the trip itself; the trip to Nowhere; the timeless, spaceless interval in which the clock hand moved about 40 minutes, and I got to not exist--what a relief!– until I heard my name and responded, almost involuntarily, as if snapped  back into a dimension where I do apparently exist.  Of course, while I was nobody in Nowhere, I could not appreciate not existing. It was only in those precious moments after emerging that I felt swathed in TabulaRasic innocence and a fulsome wave of nostalgic grief: a memory, quite literally, of sweet nothing.

And I gave myself to this delicious, pure and primal grief for a few minutes. And I gave myself also to fully sanctioned flatulence.  The voice who called me back told me that my colon had been inflated with air for the procedure and I would be passing gas. It was encouraged to. So while one end quietly and contentedly sobbed, the other end bugled with equal satisfaction and naturalness. Here in this chamber of unspoken secrets, the colonoscopy recovery room, one could weep and one could fart with commensurate impunity.

Once in the special waiting room, where post-op patients wait for their rides, relearn both to use their cell-phones (despite the “no cell phone sign) and sit upright like a standard Homosapien 2.016, I scribbled a little “poem” with the last ink in my pen. I posted it briefly to my blog, naked and without explanation, then I moved it to the verse page. But I  repost it now, more suitably introduced.

After the Procedure

Gas bloat

And the sweetest grief…

She called me by name

 and I was there to answer and didn’t even know it.

As if I materialized upon request,

the Habit of Sentience activated by my name.

Curled like a baby—

The best position for weeping from the purest well—

And nestled in a burrow of peach fuzz

 against the belly of the Mother of all Knowing,

  just this side of The Veil.


Albuquerque, NM

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