There is something very special about the poem “Breast Unit” by Konstantina Georganta, published in the Spring 2014 issue of Intima. This poem examines nature, and the human experience, through the lens of undefined moments. It has an almost scrap-like quality, with pieces embedded and skillfully woven throughout the narrative. In a way, it’s the opposite to my poem “Anatomy in Nature”published in the Spring 2018 issue of Intima. These poems are like two sides of a single coin. While mine works to pull the inside out, finding reflections of the human body, its inner workings and organs, in plants and nature imagery, Georganta’s work pulls the outside in – relating nature to us by anthropomorphizing, humanizing.

“Breast Unit” gives human characteristics to the elements of nature. It speaks of soil that weeps and laughs; of water that becomes a bed, where we “sleep all together under the sea.” Both poems serve to highlight the fundamental interconnectedness between humans and nature, between our selves (including our physical bodies) and the world around us. They are, in a sense, an exploration of (all) the different forms a body can take – and the dualism within us. In Georganta’s poem, the body “fights and is fought back” – it is both ephemeral and concrete, a breath “still alive” but feet “hard on the ground.”

Georganta’s poem is stunning – its duality feels rooted in the fabric of the poem itself. At one point, a black rock becomes a gate – and a stop. Something to walk through, yet something to block – both door and barrier. It also plays with the concept of time, expertly navigating a single moment and the passage of experience simultaneously. The dual nature of time here, as both frozen and moving, still and neverending, reinforces the duality of ourselves and nature – one thing that can be two things (or more) at once. Perhaps most clearly expressed by the poem’s conclusion, reflecting on interconnectedness and the cyclical nature of time, we are one with all things. “Each beginning and each end are one/everything starts and ends/at one and the same moment.”

On a more pragmatic note, there is something to be said for recognizing the impact nature has on our mental and physical health. Spending time outdoors has long been known to benefit human health and well being: there is a certain meditative, rejuvenating quality to connecting with nature. It’s worth thinking about this ability to transform us, to give us a new perspective, to open our hearts to the thread that connects us all – especially in times of division.

Jesse Holth, ‘On Bodies: The Transformative Power of Nature ‘, Intima: A Journal of Narrative Medicine [October 17, 2018]

Breast Unit

It’s time frozen and the persistent struggle to maintain a normality which does not reveal the change that may come. It’s the mixed feelings and excessive fears together with moments of absolute peace. It’s information repeated and the endless monologues from those around us listing our flaws. It’s the quieting words, the rage, the silence.

 

Bolivar. Do you know what “bolivar” means my child?
What does it mean madame Parthena?
If you go “bolivar”, you go to the seashore my child.

and just like that
we walked out into the open
and the world around us
water and salt
and serenity
a seashore inviting you
to gaze at it

Bolivar. I feel calm.

4th floor.
Your body on the first line
it fights and is fought back.
The resistance will be to the end.

This war is for now
for now and the now.
At some other time
we might have surrendered
but now a duty calls
that’s absurd
a message not to let go.

Our silences meet.
We sleep all together under the sea.
We like it here.
Our harvest will be for all
we will sleep lightly
and in the morning a new breeze
and once more full steam ahead.
Bolivar.
The memory of our home made of soil comes alive
the garden, the yards,
a whole world that is no more
it flickers each morning and at sunset
and the goodbyes,
heavy sighs,
mute war-cries
come from far way
a horrid war
between friendly troops.
They have camped within and among us
they push us away, they run but we
only with our eyes
our ears hear the rumble
god the pain!
the shame!
to get lost in this blur!
the city is far far away
and the water here modest
dripping slowly into our bodies.

We surface.
Two black rocks hinder our path
but I have my hammer, I will get away.
Further, further away, bolivar.
We will surrender ourselves upon a wave
like our body
like our voice
a breath that is still alive
and echoes in this ward.
Colourful lights all around
they besiege us
they police us
they play with our serenity
they want us to end
but our feet are still hard on the ground
they have clutched on to this soil
a mud that sinks
and a temperate rose-garden.

The soil is a complete disaster.
At times it weeps and at times it laughs
yes, it laughs and beckons
it speaks softly and often it says nothing
yet it flows, always flows and takes us away
further and further away
as we stay enraptured more and more
the black rock is a gate and a stop
our steps are cold
and unexpectedly heavy –
the door opens
a mob enters
it looks at us
we are not afraid
their routine presence takes us elsewhere
it ends our monotonous days;
each beginning and each end are one
everything starts and ends
at one and the same moment.

Konstantina Georganta, ‘Breast Unit’ (Intima: Journal of Narrative Medicine, 2014). Greek original «Π.Γ.Ν.Α. Αλεξάνδρα» in the collection Ρακοσυλλέκτης χρόνος (Πανοπτικόν, 2015).

Featured Image: Venus detail (by Alexandros of Antioch) at the Louvre museum [https://m-ellon-collie.tumblr.com/]