I am full of want until chest pain

The joy and despair of inhabiting a woman’s body, a mortal body, unfolds on the page with a deft blend of acidity and tenderness in Deborah Landau‘s newest collection, The Uses of the Body. 


from The Uses of the Body 

The uses of the body are manifold.
Lips, fingers, the back of the neck.

One should make as full a use as possible
before time’s up. In Paradise,

you should appreciate. Don’t squander.
Take a deep juicy bite then swallow.

Peaches are meant for tasting.
A lapping up. In Paradise

we lay and many afternoons
brought pleasure and relief.


Men look at you like you have the thing they want.
That somber hungry forcefield smack on.

It lies there. Is he aware?
I cannot see where this will end.

I can see where I need to go
but never get there. It’s operatic.

When I lie in bed my limbs go numb.
When the sky darkens.

The urge is there
but also the mandate

to damp it down.
Always the urge.

Always the mandate.
You’re still young, he says,

but youth will burst all at once
and be gone forever.


The uses of the body are wake up.
The uses of the body, illusion.

The uses of the body. Rinse repeat.
To make another body.

September. Draw the blanket up.
Lace your shoes.

The major and minor passions.
Sunlight. Hair.

The basic pleasures. Tomatoes, Keats,
meeting a smart man for a drink.

The uses of the body.
It is only a small house. It gets older.

Its upper and lower.
Its red and white trim.

It’s tempting to gloss over this part,
so you won’t really see me.


The uses of the body are heavy and light.
Raspberries, cradles, houses in Maine.

Biopsies, second opinions, MRIs.
I am cozy, I am full of want until chest pain,

until a heavy cramp. The pain of form.
See how caught up we are

in our habitual flying patterns
until we have to look the unfair doctor in the eye.

The genitals are irrelevant then.
Dr. Rutkowski, what was it you said?