lessons from a distance

lessons from a distance

Our Bodies, Our Feelings, Our Paratext: A Lesson With Erik Fuhrer

A Symphony of Heat

When I have a panic attack, I light the wick of my body. It’s as if one could look into my mouth and see my spine’s glow. This may even be true, no one has tried it.

The heat flickers within and yet just at the edge of my body, puckering, smokeless, my fingers, into a tingle, as if I had sat upon them. The heat is my body’s paratext, which is, per Gérard Genette, “a threshold” between my fleshly world and the world in which I, you, us, move.

Each of us carries thousands of footnotes of heat, or however else emotions like anxiety, joy, disappointment, pleasure, manifest themselves in the symphony of our bodies and the air they grace. Perhaps we gift pieces of them to each other when we pass, when we read, when we type that tweet at 2 am.

Slime Mold Neighbor

Just days after my partner and I moved into our house in Indiana years ago, we found what to us was a strange, pink mass in our mulch. We thought our dog had vomited. We called our vet. Described it. It was way too big. It was growing.

The internet revealed it to be slime mold. 600 million years old. As fans of the X-Files, we imagined agent Mulder, thinking it a possible early alien visitor, bending down to it and saying, “greetings from planet Earth,” as he did to the possibly metal cockroach in “War of the Coprophages.” But we did nothing. It lived with us until it didn’t. It has never returned.

I find it interesting, the kinds of animals we allow in our house and the kinds we leave outside. We invite in dogs, cats, but swat at spiders, crickets, and other bugs deemed pests. Perhaps not us all, but it is common custom. In the house, a pocket of bees would likely be extinguished while a litter of puppies cherished.

My partner and I have 100s of Asian Beetles in our house during wintertime. They sometimes find their way into our cups, and we scoop them out.  Other beetles find a place in our home year round. The slime mold, also would have been welcome, if it could have lived indoors, after all, it was our neighbor, and it was 600 million years old.

Donna Haraway reminds us that when we walk into our house we are inviting others in at all times because us ourselves are never completely human: “I love the fact that human genomes can be found in only about 10 percent of all the cells that occupy the mundane space I call my body; the other 10 percent of the cells are filled with genomes of bacteria, fungi, protists, and such, some of which  play in a symphony necessary to me being alive at all , and some of which are hitchhiking a ride and doing the rest of me, us, no harm.” We are all of us already multiple, already carrying the parataxis which connect us to this world, to one another, human or otherwise.


When I wake up in the morning, my dog climbs onto my chest and lies his face on mine. Sometimes he is covering my nostrils. I feel a heat, but not the intense heat of a panic attack. Rather, my body ambers under his. Untenses.

I don’t know that I would hug a slime mold but I certainly did try to honor it. We are all here together, on this planet. I writing. Tweeting. It growing.

In moving forward we should always have a wild love. For each other. For the birds. For the slime mold. This love may manifest in different ways. A hug. A home. A respect. But a love nonetheless. Because, as Haraway says, in this uncertain world, “staying with the trouble requires making odd kin; that is, we require each other in unexpected collaborations and combinations, in hot compost piles. We become-with each other, or not at all.” Let us let our hair down and yawp.



Where and how do emotions manifest themselves in your body? Please feel free to choose any emotion you wish (multiple emotions are fine as well). Think about how the emotions move through your body. How long they affect your body. Now, write a poem or flash that centers on this emotion and how it either travels through your body or among bodies in the world.


In the video game, Katamari Damacy, the gamer is tasked with rolling a giant ball around to collect the remnants of stars, constellations, and the moon, in order to restore the sky. Imagine you were the author of this game. Now, write a poem or flash that details (in list format or otherwise) what you would be collecting along the way (feel free to add why—or keep this a mystery). The piece should roll, or build, toward a climax in which what you are building toward is revealed (feel free to also write the piece with a backwards trajectory).


If you were decide to let something in your house (it doesn’t have to be living even, think drone), what would it be? The only catch is that it can’t be something commonly let into houses- dog, cat, etc. After deciding on what this thing is, write a poem or flash about what would happen once it is let in (where would it live in the house? How (if at all) would it interact with you? How (if at all) would it impact the way you live?


What does love with other species (domestic or otherwise) look like for you? How do you show this love to the other species? Do you think the other species shows it back? How so? Write a poem or flash about the love between you and this other species.

Erik Fuhrer lives in Indiana. He is the author of 4 poetry collections, including not human enough for the census (Vegetarian Alcoholic Press), with a 5th, in which I take myself hostage (Spuyten Duyvil Press), forthcoming at the end of this year. He can be found at Erik-Fuhrer.com and on Twitter at @erikfuhrer.