Sarah Sgro | Night Soil

Shit is only loss so far as it concerns the individual (for it feeds the soil, for it builds the earth).

Even then I have transformed. Even then I am dynamic and in constant flight. My stomach churns. A sandwich is fluid is boundless is now a hot turd.

So much of what I’ve lost I’m glad for! Such unthoughtful partners. Such bad sandwiches. Such long days and spells of rain.

Sometimes I dream of the eternal meal which never leaves my tongue.

Some things I won’t shit out for years, like gum. I heard about my dad at 9AM with oatmeal on the stove. They were there for me for a week. They were there for me for a month.

I stay regular but there are undigested things inside my gut.

***

Shit as snowflake, shit as blueprint, shit as rancid narrative. The smell and texture of my shit informs me if I’m eating well, if I’m suffering from dehydration. After beets my turd will slide out warm magenta; burgers and I get a school of dark brown beads. Particles of what I’ve swallowed, where my mouth has been.

What’s your weirdest poop story? I ask K while we’re eating seven-layer dip, watching Lady Gaga swing from buildings at the Superbowl. When K was young she used to pick up every poop she made. She would study its consistency, roll the stool between her hands like clay, toss it back and flush.

***

What’s your story? friends ask when I finally return their calls. All my sadness feels transparent, even though I’m often other people’s confidantes, which makes me think I come off stable or at least insightful. I talk about my polyamory and S says I am new age-y and wise. J says probably this won’t pan out and somebody will end up hurt, though if it’s working now then that’s alright. P says Once I had a friend in California who was polyamorous, he tried to kill himself, which sounds off-base but anecdotes can offer practical perspective.

Usually they’re out of time before I have to talk about my dad. At the single loss group I attended we were asked to locate where we tend to hang out on the ever-vacillating grief graph. I said numb in daylight and then isolated in the evening, which many of my peers agreed with. But the latter half is only true if I’m alone, which is rare when I am balancing two partners, so mostly just the first one.

Today I’m going to a birthday barbecue and later I am scratching at K’s back while making love. All my numbness feels transparent, stinking up the room, sliding from my body as a variegated clump. I scrutinize the parts. I knead it in my palms.

***

To not shit is impossible. Fantasy is odorless. I don’t want a fantasy inside my body for it leaves too quickly. K is funny, generous, and physically my type, and she loves me even though I also love my six-year boyfriend B, but she doesn’t have to be a fantasy.

***

I turn in a rim job poem for workshop and everyone asks, is the presence of shit here justified? Do we need to talk about shit? On its own line at the center of the page, poop appears so crass, superfluous. A joke that I don’t need in a poem which is really all about my loneliness, which obscures my nascent grief with superficial anal narratives. It shows up in my second poem too, which is about my dad but somehow I begin it saying I love poop.

It’s about the way we use fixations to make sense of what we don’t want to confront, says A, one of my closest friends. We’re just lucky you’re obsessed with poop instead of fly-fishing.

This analysis is generous and it sits well with me (nothing against fly-fishing), but I’m sick of being Shit Girl. Writing waste feels thirsty for attention, juvenile, like I put my stock in shock and excess over substance. Would your poems be as cool without the poop? someone asks, and suddenly I’m desperate and exposed, like I’ve served my large intestines at a dinner party in a butter sauce.

***

It’s hardly shocking that my shit fixation likely stems from other bodily obsessions, namely with my weight. I hate my body too full or too empty, anchored or at risk of levitating. My OCD flares up as frequent thoughts of what I last consumed, how long it will sustain me. If I haven’t had enough to eat, will I faint humiliatingly in public? Or have I overfed myself, so much so that I can never shit out the remains?

On average I’ll take anywhere from 3 to 7 shits a day. I’ve never taken laxatives, but I pride myself on being regular. My friend says that a perfect turd should have the texture of a ripe banana, which I often can achieve, but other times I’m squeezing out pulled pork, forcing half-formed dregs into the toilet bowl. I feel ashamed and awkward when I’m constipated so I steam a bowl of broccoli and feel the fiber travel through my body like a drug, sliding through my gut to unstick random crud.

***

B and I compete to see who poops more frequently. He’s also very thin and fixated on food. I post an Instagram of B outside our Brooklyn home swaddled in a slack green shirt, collarbones exposed, and soon his brother texts him dude, are you okay?

B is vegan and runs 7 miles a day, building up to marathons. Training strains his bowels so as soon as he gets home he drops a gummy shit inside an already stinking bowl. Whatever space we share we make so putrid. I’m losing my abs he complains while we are fucking bone to bone, slamming shut the bathroom door to section off the excrement.

***

I gaze into my navel and there’s shit inside the hole.

***

Generally we are more enticing when we do not smell like shit, but the body is enhanced by the presence of some excrement. I love the smell of musk, for instance, and it’s scientifically suggested that I should. Freshman year I read experiments on pheromones in Intro Psych and fantasized about my nose inside B’s armpit, reveling in all that post-run stench. Musk from physical activity is proven to be more appealing than the static perspiration which accumulates from sitting on the couch, probably because the first behavior is more evolutionarily ideal.

Personally I’ll take either if it means my lover’s dirtied, real.

Musk or sweat or B.O. as we like to call it represents a liminal arena between beauty and disgust, feces and perfume. When B has clocked in 13 miles or fucked or watched a season’s worth of Mad Men in a day, his body flaunts its chosen excess as a mix of spicy-sweetness and bacteria.

***

K showers once a week without soap. She hasn’t used shampoo in months and squeezes lemon on her armpits for deodorant. I love the product-free aroma of her skin, oils that can flourish freely without all the fragrances and parabens I lather on.

After finishing a double at the Colonel’s House, K lifts her arms for me to judge. Salty with some garlic too I offer up, but this is oversimplified. She points out undertones that I’ve neglected, foods she prepped that night: lump crab dip, pickled rhubarb, turtle soup. Beneath all that, the ineradicable poop.

***

The child does not fall from on high, but is dumped as creation’s refuse. Quite literally the shit of God.
—Dominique LaPorte (History of Shit)

Sometimes the metaphor is heavy-handed.

The metaphor is fragmentation or amalgamation or rebirth.

***

I’m drawn to the generative qualities of poop, how it’s been used throughout history as compost and manure. Shit increases the fertility of soil by imbuing it with nutrients like nitrogen. Organisms such as nematodes (root-feeders), arthropods (shredders), and protozoa (amoebae, flagellates, ciliates) feed upon resulting fungi and contribute to the soil food web. These organisms then get swallowed up by higher-ranking predators: birds and armadillos who will ultimately shit them back into the ground.

Night soil is a euphemism for human feces collected at night from cesspools, privies, etc. and sometimes used as a fertilizer. Another definition is “untreated excreta transported without water (e.g. via containers or buckets).
Wikipedia (“Night Soil”)

In early modern London, night soil men and women gathered stray dung for future composting. Why waste a fecund thing? This obsession with fruition was not limited to individual citizens, but was instead encouraged and executed by the community at large. Renaissance townships often confiscated or sold waste that was unlawfully piled or unclaimed.

***

Often I want to escape my body. Often I get tired of that constant flux. What came first, the shitting or the eating. What came first, the soil or the sparrow.

To hold my anal byproduct inside my hands is definition of the abject, proof I’m not intact. Turd as microcosm of the ways I’m messy and grotesque. The cracker and the cornish game hen both emerge rancid, wet.

Poop is not the joke says A, my chosen sage. Everything around it is! The sky is blue and crisp but still absurd. The flitting bird or fly-fish. The family unit (dissolves). The crisp blue sky is flushed at night. My B and K. My turds can fertilize! An all-encompassing ecology. An earth without a hierarchy.

Nothing in this world is uncontaminated. I want a politics where poop is not a garish flag, a filthy joke. To love my shit is not to fetishize. To write my shit is not distracting or embracing the taboo. My shit is generative like the trees like the family unit like the fluctuating sky. My shit returns. My shit transforms, won’t die.

***

I fear my talk of shit is capitalist. Some things burn such as my father who will never fertilize the earth. He does not owe the earth fecundity. His death is not a source of work.

***

An irreparable loss.

Loss which swells in isolation.

Shit which fertilizes which regrows.

Loss which not always interred. My father for example burned. Shit which blooms betwixt the soil.

Guaranteed rebirth.

In the crematorium the body crumbles like a sickly shit. If I am singed I want to rise up from the flames a ripe banana shape. The fire will digest me like a fruit, I will wash away the crud, I will travel through the body of the furnace like a drug.

***

In Defense of Poop.

Towards A Shittier Poetics.

Arse Poetica.

***

The privatization of waste made it possible for the smell of shit to be bearable within the family setting, home to the closest social ties.
—Dominique LaPorte (History of Shit)

I’m lazy so I love to shit inside my house. L’eau de merde, l’eau d’amant! My bed is located directly opposite the bathroom so with both doors open I can poop while K is lounging comfortably, talking to each other without physical obstruction. B prefers to shit alone, which is respectable and not exclusively about his shame. He thinks of song lyrics and poems on the toilet, an introspective realm for his otherwise congested head. He doesn’t take his phone inside or read the backs of shampoo bottles for distraction. Lately I fear any freely meditative place. I am deeply unhygienic, placing phone calls I’ve procrastinated on and hanging up before I wipe, or in the midst.

***

All my pet names have to do with poop.

K: Big Poot, Little Toot.

B: Poop, Bun, Picklebutt.

***

B is terrified of his asshole so I’ve never put my mouth to it. Mostly he’s afraid there’s poop inside, which is a valid fear. Even a stray finger past the balls will startle him. Still, his cute butt is my favorite thing to look at on his body. It’s playful but intentional, chiseled-out but humble. I respect B’s wishes. We wake up late together in his dark apartment and I hold the cold cheeks gingerly, never pry inside.

Two weeks after my rim job poem I am finally living out my lamest dream. I tell K I’ve never actually performed the act despite my vulgar imagery, and by coincidence it’s something she especially enjoys. We make a plan to ass-eat to our favorite punk rock playlist. Her asshole tastes nothing like shit, which I don’t mean as an insult or a compliment, just an observation. Mine is probably a different story. Mmmm, chocolate she laughs with her nose immersed, and I wonder if I should have loofa-ed myself earlier.

I’m trying polyamory in part because I struggle with my sexuality. When I’m not writing on shit, I write about this. I haven’t orgasmed in several years, and I struggle just to masturbate, so I feel foolish talking of my body as an excess. If anything, I fold in on myself, refuse eruption. Either way I make myself a spectacle, as grotesque or repressed.

If I am Shit Girl I can smear shit in your face, which is a spectacle, but one I’ve claimed. But I’m not interested in smearing shit into your face. I want to understand my body and its miracles, but not to overstate them. Like anything insightful, shit is funny and it’s weird. I want to laugh at my intestines and my mouth, my anal tract. If I can laugh at me then maybe I can touch me. At least for now, on the page.

***

I depart from my body during sex.

I would like to try departing from my body during sex.

My SSRIs keep me dry.

I’m too much in my head.

Staring at my O-face from above the bowl.

Slap a hand over my cum-noise.

Orgasm does not arrive. A long and constipated day.

I slide outside the cavern of my innards.

To flush you must press hard enough to cross the threshold.

***

B insists I wipe my butt wrong since I do it standing up. That’s fucking gross, you’re getting particles of shit all over the floor.

K insists I wipe my butt wrong since I use approximately thirteen sheets of bathroom tissue wadded up. It’s called a toilet paper boxing glove, and I’m a champion!

I keep a giant dildo-looking plunger by the bathtub which I use several times a month.

***

I took up many extracurriculars. I took up many extra lovers. A week after my dad collapsed I volunteered to host a fundraiser event. It was my first night back but I felt safer and less lonely. When I was absent for the week in mourning all my houseplants died in solidarity. My house was a cliché.

I got all As. You’re back? my friends asked and I felt so callous. I cried at only one additional party I hosted. Two months later my then-lover dumped me which in retrospect was kind. K and I love with reciprocity. B and I love our future plans, our not-yet child, a bulldog we’ll call Meatball.

Loss is sometimes loss. Is not a shit. Nothing will regenerate. I’m scared, okay? I want a thick excess of love. I want to host another party for my friends. I can’t lose one more fucking thing.

***

Don’t fret—my dad did not shit himself in death. It was a pulmonary embolism and my mother found him on the kitchen floor. Of course she must have screamed. Primarily for help. Are you sitting down? she asked me on the phone and I thought my Meema died while sleeping. Of course I must have screamed. I called B. I called everyone I knew. I didn’t know K. I called my mom back but she had the same news. They were there for me for a week. They were there with me that day. Of course I don’t remember anything about my shits. Who cares? I flew home rapidly. I ate a Five Guys single patty in Atlanta. On the second plane the sky was dark and I interpreted its gross expanse as lonely. Of course my dad was nowhere in the sky. It took three hours to collect the body. I landed and wanted to hug and punch my mother. His eyes glazed over, wet.

***

I’m thirsty for a fluid love.

I dream of loving without hierarchy. My K is just as sacred as my B; my turd is just as sacred as the trees.

No one is my property.

I eat my love and shit it out. The love regrows.

They burned the skin instead.

I am not the only one who grieves.

***

Here there are no worms, no arthropods. My dad is nowhere in the ground and I interpret this as lonely. Tonight B asks me for my favorite flower so when I get home I’ll be surrounded by them. I am jaded by the fickle soil and what grows from it. K charts contours of a mountain in her field book. Give me inked terrain, confident topography, nothing new or newly gone. I gaze into my shit, my soul. It stinks and probably gets reborn. The metaphor is heavy-handed. An irreparable loss. Perhaps I germinate constructively. The hand is heavy in the morning on my throat.

.

.


Sarah Sgro is the author of the chapbook Without Them I Am Still A Mother (Letter [r] Press 2017) and the forthcoming full-length collection If The Future Is A Fetish (YesYes Books 2019). She lives in Oxford, Mississippi, where she serves as Poetry Editor for the Yalobusha Review and reads poetry submissions for Muzzle. She is from New York and previously worked as an editorial assistant for Guernica.  Her work appears or is forthcoming in BOAATANMLY, The OffingDREGINALDThe BoilerTAGVVERK, and other journals.

2018-01-18T01:16:47+00:00

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