Alicia Jo Rabins on "Geode"


The plagues we wished upon ourselves
With aloe juice and cayenne
The planets we strained to reach
That was how being young tasted
Each of us a geode looking to be cracked
And to crack each other open
Over and over
I am no longer young except to those who are older
In the way that youth moves along
The conveyor belt
At a consistent distance
I drink water now
I try to be gentle
The years crack you open enough

On "Geode"

During my high school days in the early 90's, there was a fad called the Master Cleanse. Perhaps it still exists. It was a sort of potion which was supposed to have extreme purging effects: water, maple syrup, lemon juice and a bit of cayenne. For the truly hardcore, there was the option of adding aloe juice effects.

To carry out the Master Cleanse, you were supposed to drink only this beverage for a certain number of days. It was promised (by whom I'm not sure) that if we did this, we would cleanse our bodies of impurities.

Looking back, I think of this quasi-magical potion and what it symbolized. The Master Cleanse was a sort of touchstone, lying at the intersection of what consumed me in those early teenage years. On one hand, the part which now seems sad to me: my general obsession with thinness (which, in my case, required me to wage a constant battle against my naturally average-to-stocky build, in other words, an eating disorder). On the other, more meaningfully, I felt–and still feel–a deep attraction to ritual, spiritual practice, and discipline.

It was oddly difficult, in those days, to eat food, to appreciate our young, healthy bodies. Instead, my friends and I had the impulse to tame our bodies, to subjugate them, "cleanse" them. I think it was part privilege, part oppression, and part spiritual quest. We did the same thing emotionally, too. We set up obstacles for ourselves, falling in and out of love, breaking each other's young hearts with love-and/or-friendship drama. We were always staying up all night. We were constantly finding the most extreme version of ourselves.

Now, I'm forty-one, and watching as my own young children begin their journeys towards those years I still remember so clearly. This poem is a sort of blessing and a farewell to those adolescent years. I don't want to judge and ridicule them, instead, I want to respectfully bid them farewell.

Much of Fruit Geode is about pregnancy, birth and early parenthood, but it's also about the transition out of youth, into whatever comes next. In a way, I guess it's a book-length alternative to those two gruesome syllables, "mid-life." That plodding trochee doesn't nearly begin to capture the hard-earned luminosity of these years, the possibility of peace and gentleness towards myself and others. To get here, I had to live through those bittersweet young years, which my young friends and I spent hurling ourselves at each other like geodes trying to shatter themselves, trying to find the rainbows hidden inside.  


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