Gut Instincts


[Image description: abstract watercolour drawing of soft, tangled lines, all in various shades of pink.]  Bowy Gavid Bowie Chan / Creative Commons

[Image description: abstract watercolour drawing of soft, tangled lines, all in various shades of pink.]

Bowy Gavid Bowie Chan / Creative Commons

It took decades for my belly and me to become friends again after we broke up. Well - it was more of a mutual unattraction, as I also ignored my gut instincts, which is some kind of metaphor, no, synchronicity, no, thing to be expected when you disassociate from those parts of your body that people don't want. When they only value the ones they do, which definitely were not my eye contact or my soul or that downy trail of hair that runs up and over the curve of my belly, unruly like my Italian peasant ancestors and nothing like the blank polite surfaces of a doll or a model or the girls in the locker room who point at my wild hair, my stretch marks and my secondhand clothes, with the same disgust shared and amplified until it is louder than the rush of blood to my cheeks. Louder than any rock and roll could drown out. Louder than Jack Daniels on the lunch break or the rush of air through windows traveling 70 miles an hour down a narrow road. Louder than any of the people that told me I was beautiful and didn't mean fuckable. A short list grown quiet in the chaos of popular culture and high school and all the things I don't know how to do but have to do and maybe somehow survive if I even care anymore which sometimes I truly don't.

At risk in so many ways, dodging death and fate and statistics by some margin of grace and the shreds of common sense. Hiding in the bathroom, for crying and puking and bleeding, the crinkle of the tampon wrapper in my clenched fist, still not totally sure of the mechanics of it all but knowing without a doubt that it's one more way to be vulnerable, one more way to hurt, one more animal scent to cover up and pretend about while my gut roils and cries. And I smother it in spandex and layers upon layers of pretense about feminine and fashion and wondering why they keep laughing no matter what I wear or what I say and why do I bother but the alternative is surrender and whatever else my gut might believe about itself, surrender is not really an option. My family would be devastated and some small part of me believes that it will maybe get better than this if I can hang on, so my fingers grip tighter and my stomach clamps down and my voice waits until there is a time when they can all let go and be exactly what they already are, what they always have been, a mammal with strong instincts and a voice that rings out loud and blood that flows like fingerpaint and plant food and magic spells and worthy of lovers who find beauty in the hills and curves and folds and flaws.

I stretch open to the sky, to myself and experience, bare my heart and my skin, decorate it in ink and wards and bruises and tattered lace and well-worn leather and kisses from my spine to my toes. My nightmares still haunt the back of my eyelids but awake I am powerful and more brave than not. I bike and dance and fuck for miles, high on hedonism and acid and mushrooms and weed and whiskey though not usually all at once (well, almost always hedonism). Skin starved no more and generous with it so that hugs fill my days and every surface has to be able to hold more than one person and I seek out ways to celebrate fellow flawed fabulous freaks. Scars and stretch marks, body and facial hair on feminine folks, glitter and nail polish on masculine folks and every combination of the two, armpits that carry a story that started clean and then layered on exertion and emotion, sharp canines and gap teeth, thick bodies and lanky bodies and bodies that are changelings. Callused hands and gravelly voices. Back fat and long toes. Freckles and vitiligo and spider veins. Crooked smiles and wild manes of hair and bald heads and boobs you can get lost in and ones that barely fill my hand and those that we agree are invisible, bellies that fold over and the constellations of stars on thighs that rub.

My own belly, held in my hands, soft touches and apologies, trying to make up for decades of misplaced anger, as it grows shrinks stretches aches wakes listens revels lies content. As lovers sometimes celebrate but sometimes reject it by which I mean me, by which I mean heartbreak and compromise and realization and disentangling and trying again. As I find community and knowledge and a soft net of love and shared experience and informed desire and genuine lust with the lights on so that even as my bones begin to throb as often as my clit I can find my way to loving me. Even as the list of pain and allergies grows and my world shrinks, and I wonder how to flag self-advocacy though the truth is anyone could guess within 5 minutes because the world has become an obstacle course and they are as likely to be a hurdle as a care station. Decades of loving and losing and finding the beauty of my body and then my uterus, thwarted of child-making materials, spins muscles and veins and nightmares into a hulking mass, dense and senseless and hungry and heavy, crowding and swelling into old fears and new pain resting like a boulder on my pelvic floor. Tiny slits in the meat of me and western meds and a lost afternoon and a belly swollen with bruise water and robot atmosphere.

Now I struggle like an astronaut with gravity and forward motion and which way is up and suspension in a moment that doesn't feel grounded at all which is not only a metaphor but also a truth. An echoing darkness that is both empty and full, both healed and hurting, both sides of a coin I never wanted to flip. My cunt like a wound for the first time in decades like the first time when there was betrayal but no blood, a staggering injury that doesn't show but leaves me limping all the same. A vulnerability and a decision in the face of questions and concern, to tell or to keep quiet. I grip tightly to the choosing of it, to the search for a doctor who respects freaks and their bodies, someone I can trust when I am unconscious and laid open. Feeling the guilt of having that option when so many people don't and not having it as bad as other stories of pain and loss and suffering. The nightmares that come with that and all the faces fear can steal and stalk you with. Housebound and hoping every morning that this day won't hurt won't leave me angry crying won't layer isolation on top of frustration and it does and it does and it does and the doctor says it will hurt more before it hurts less says I'm a badass for handling it all with only weed says I'm doing great says it's safe to fuck now says keep breathing.

I breathe and I write and I cry and I write and I explain and I breathe and I eat medicated truffles until even the hedonist in me is sick of dark chocolate and weed. I explain over and over again how I hurt why I hurt where I hurt what I am doing about it when it will change who will be able to help me. I give thanks for a home I love to be in I give thanks for a home at all I give thanks for a job with insurance and compassion I give thanks for a job at all. I feel guilt and gratitude combating in my gut and the echoes are loud and the nightmares are loud and the pain is loud and I am very quiet except when I stand and involuntarily exclaim from the ongoing ache like a heated bowling ball or a heated wire or a heated boot swung hard. Except when I walk where the math is 5 minutes equals a 4 on the pain scale and 20 minutes equals a 6 and all afternoon equals fuck fucking hell god dammit give me a minute I'm sorry it's fine and it's not but that's the best grace I can manage. One month. Two months. Three months and counting. I give myself presents for hanging in there, for managing my screaming inner child and my mostly calm outer adult. I give myself hair color and a shiny new cane, trying to find ways to feel beautiful, to feel like myself, to feel like I can make this work.

I look at my belly in the mirror, at the stretch marks and the new scars and the pull of gravity and how the shape of my navel has changed and it looks different, but not different like opened and excavated or even different like the loss of a grapefruit or a small watermelon or any other fruit I no longer feel as comfortable with as I did before that Google search that I will never repeat. I look and I wonder at the fact that every smaller size I ever was also felt fat. That every other pain I have felt and endured and learned to live with has ultimately led to my belly. That my instincts are solid even when my body feels like a bundle of fragments strung together with curiosity and passion and stubborn determination and plant medicine and the love of community and the magic of my muse continuing to whisper in my ear and the knowledge that I have a beau that sees me, aging and hurting and crying and trying and learning and flailing and re-forging myself again and again in the heat of hard work and they are the rain and the flowers and the solid ground and the flawed freaky companion of my dreams. And so am I. The uncertainty and the changing and the pain and the glory and the learning and the loving and the surviving. Turning the echoes into some kind of music, stitching me into my skin.

Sossity Chiricuzio is a queer femme outlaw poet, a working class crip storyteller. What her friends' parents often referred to as a bad influence, and possibly still do. A 2015 Lambda Fellow, she writes as activism, connection, and survival, and is found in places like Adrienne, NANO fiction, Rogue Agent, |tap|, Crabfat, and Lunch Ticket. More info: and on social media @sossitywrites.