Reclaiming the Self Unadorned; or, Fleeing Pandora’s Division

Inspired by Porphyry’s letter to his wife Marcella, stories of Pythagorean women, Plato’s Gorgias and Alcibiades, Olympiodorus’ comment on gender equality in his Gorgias commentary at 18.9, the myth of Pandora, things that happen in meditation that are not wholly communicable, and thoughts I have while doing dishes on why I haven’t worn makeup since I was 20. Strive for aretē in all things.

Strip the body down to its essentials
as if flaying back its own outer skin,
revealing latticework of marrow-rich bone,
the structure of muscle and tendon.
Cut away each untested assumption and lie.
Abandon the makeup in its jars and boxes —
the glisten of glitter and iridescent powder-sheen —
the blistering heels, the chafing clothing,
ideologies we hold for attention, not conviction.
Last to be stripped away is taxonomy:
Body just is and it is what it is, complexly simple.

Find beauty in earthen hues that make space,
like a jewel-case well-designed for viewing:
Plain neutrals befitting its nature — unadornment,
accessories that free the soul it grasps tight
to shine forth acuity, light, and strength
without artifice or insecurity to hold it back.
Place the open jars where unneeded gifts belong;
sacrifice them to Earth, do not hold clinging to
your nostalgia of once-friends and ex-lovers,
each cultural lie taught to you unnobly.
You treat these adornments as you yourself.

Love the body for itself — its diaphragmed breath,
the pull of muscle as it extends, contracts;
its potential for building strength, for enduring
(even what you feared it could not endure);
how soft light feels upon the flesh at midday;
the sensation of wet ground and grace underfoot.
Adore its distresses, its pains, its racing thoughts,
its tidelike fluctuations, its days of bleeding,
its storms of disquiet that bluster in winter,
its instincts to do what others want done,
its desire to label before knowing the form.
It is a world in need of your custody, yes.
It is a world already seeded with adornment.
It is a world not in need of overthinking.


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