life in the body: sketches and a poem.

story of interfacing and growth
when body of knowledge = knowledge of body

Pink hexagons lie in neatly arranged patterns like bathroom tiles.  To drain the wet floor, rivers run alongside tile rows as canals ascend between layers of tiles.

“I guess we are growing,” she said with a smile.

Glorified mesh of glistening white that hugs each infolding and bulge of the rectus abdominus, the rectus sheath crawls with fibroblasts that lay down slinkies of elastin and ropes of collagen to form a netted hammock that cradles the inner muscle.

And what’s more we’re knowing a body, an art.

Alternating air compressions and rarefactions are focused by a ridged, cartilage funnel to push and pull on the human leather-covered drum whose vibrations beat rhythm into a succession of bone tools.  The stirrup excitedly stomps on the oval window, shoving forward the mass of fluid inside as waves vibrate the undulating membranes liek a person shaking out a sand-coated towel.  The waves forcefully flatten small fields of cilia, allowing ions to excitedly rush through a chosen few, relaying the signal on.

Spare few can imagine its secrets, surprising.

Putzing around the epithelium, sampling and adorning its octopus arms with scraps of delicious cast-off proteins, the dendritic cell lies in wait.  “No, no…far too ordinary–isn’t this a piece of myself I’m munching on?  I feel like that pizza character from “Space Balls (The Movie!)”.  They should have made an action figure of him.  Oh!  Here, THIS bit is entirely new!’  And off the dendritic cell speeds, a professional waiter with arms that trail behind in a bridal veil of antigenic bliss.  Arms decorated by crumbs of the novel, delicate truffle, the veiled cell speeds to educate neophyte Ts that wait in the local pub–the neighborhood lymph node.

Or contrive its mys’tried–demanding, delighting.

Borne of a stem cell, I migrate up to 0.5 mm/day.  My trip to the surface is propelled by those below me that crowd me forward without rest.  Once born, I must pass through four layers; each layer marks me one step nearer to release into The Real World; each layer is distinct in appearance as any good archaelogist would appreciate.  During the first two postnatal levels, I busily synthesize keratin substrates and lamellar bodies–racing to produce as many as possible before the end of the third level when I must extrude all of my fatty lamellar bodies to strengthen the barricade against water, reinforcing the line of defense.  Time has hardened me by the fourth layer; my crust keratinizes as my innards degrade and finally…finally, I am resting in a flaky outer layer until friction release me to float free and surf the wind, suspended in space.

But which chalice of nectar sip learned, wise doctors?

A deluge of sugary liquid pools and fills the mouth as ridged knobs that dot the tongue shrink in the presence of sucrose concentrate.  The glucose-fructose pair, linked by the sugared jealousy of nucleophilic attack, binds taste receptors on the ridged buds and, liek eager racehorses that need no spurring when their gates are opened, sodium ions rush inside the taste bud cell (obliged by their diffusion potential and Le Chatlier’s edict).  A chain of axon play the world’s most accurate game of telephone, crossing all streams of space by sending fleets of messenger chemicals across until every communication gap is conquered.  The relay is handed off from the chorda tympani (CN VII) through the medulla and solitary tract to teh solitary nucleus and then a wedge of the thalamus (VPM) launches awareness of taste into consciousness by terminating teh race in Epicurian-championed  taste cortex, located in the bulge of postcentral gyrus that is tucked in the cusp of the Sylvian fissure.

From a fact-trinket clutch or from science’s human touch?

Ruby discs skim through a liquid milieu, bumping into aerodynamically inferior, odd-shaped solid blobs, and ricochet off the (hopefully) smooth side walls in a pattern of movement like that of a pinball whose path is directioned, but often altered by the interference of flesh flippers and the multiball action of other cells.  In the narrowing walls, the ruby discs collide and rowdily shove each other into a single file line, then march forward triumphantly: the perfect image of decreased entropy.  Their surrounding liquid seeps out as the ruby discs find their walls suddently pocked with windowed spaces.  They pack together and push forward in a tight chain, carefully holding hands and looking both ways until they safely finish the gauntlet and are surrounded by solid walls that lead them back to The Great Muscle.  Meanwhile the liquid, having crossed through the windowed walls, percolates through the basil lamina only to be strained by a delicate sieve formed by the tiny, interlocking toes of podocytes.  Only three layers now separate liquid #1 from liquid #2, thus qualifying the liquid to be renamed “urine” in honor of the chemical that freed us of an ocean-bound existence.


Brook Ballard, Chicago, Class of 2006